Detecting autism by microbes in the gut: Photo: BH, via StraightsTimes.com Researchers at the Imperial College London have discovered that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have unusual microbes in their gut that can be used to identify them as autism candidates as early as six months of age. Identification would come from a simple urine test for the disease.
Currently, autistic children are not identified with the disease until they start showing symptoms of it, which could be when they are anywhere from one to five years old. Early symptoms, such as late speech onset, speech repetition, rocking, or social isolation, can also be symptoms of other disorders, or can even be within the normal range of behavior for the age group and/or gender. So, a simple urine test that finds a 'chemical fingerprint' of autism is revolutionary considering its absolute certainty. It also would enable professional intervention to begin months or years before behavioral symptoms appear.
Professor Jeremy Nicholson, author of the study published today in the Journal of Proteome Research, believes that intensive intervention received at six months in a child's life could make autism "a preventable disease."
Working with researchers from the University of South Australia, scientists used urine samples of 101 children between the ages of 3 and 9: 39 children were already diagnosed with autism, 28 were non-autistic siblings of autistic children, and 34 children did not have autism or an autistic sibling. Urine samples were inspected using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy that can analyse the chemical make-up of the urine. Each of the three groups had a distinct chemical fingerprint.
The next step is to test a larger group of children. The researchers want to finish this next round of trials within two years; their goal is for medical approval of the test within five years. When marketed, the test is expected to cost as little as £5.
sources: Telegraph.co.uk, Daily Mail