With varying symptoms and lacking a clear diagnostic test, autism can be difficult to identify—particularly among young children.
But scientists in Europe have made headway in devising a blood and urine test that could one day help with earlier detection of the condition.
The researchers’ findings, published in the Molecular Autism Journal, showed chemical differences in the blood and urine of those studied with autism versus test subjects without the condition. In particular, they found higher levels of protein damage, especially in the blood plasma in the children with autism.
Lead author of the study, Naila Rabbani, a biologist at the University of Warwick in the U.K., told Gizmodo that the test could improve the accuracy of diagnosis from 60-70% to up to 90% accuracy.
While a conclusive test based on such learnings is a ways off, the scientists hope that these differences will one day make it possible to detect autism earlier in children. For now, there are no biological tests to diagnose the condition. Instead, clinicians rely on behavioral assessments, which are harder to undertake among the very young. As a result, diagnosis can be delayed, leading to most children not being diagnosed before the age of two, if not much later.