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Urine test for early detection of autism on the horizon

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Saturday, June 5, 2010, 5:08 This news item was posted in medical devices category and has 0 Comments so far.

A simple urine test may predict whether a child has autism in the coming days, if the findings of a new research is any indication.

Autism children have a different chemical fingerprint in their urine than non-autistic children, according to researchers from Imperial College London and the University of South Australia.

The urine samples from three groups of children aged between 3 and 9 were analyzed using H NMR Spectroscopy. 39 children who had previously been diagnosed with autism, 28 non-autistic siblings of children with autism, and 34 children who did not have autism or who did not have an autistic sibling.

The urinary metabolic clue for autism identified by the researchers in the study could form the basis of a non-invasive test that might help diagnose autism earlier.

An earlier diagnosis would enable autistic children to receive medical as well other socio-psychological assistance, such as advanced behavioural therapy, earlier in their development than what is currently possible.

Currently autism disorder is assessed through a lengthy process involving a range of tests that explore the child’s social interaction, communication and imaginative skills.

Autism children are normally diagnosed under 18 months of age. However, the behavioural changes may occur much earlier.

The new research was based on the understanding that people with autism have a different makeup of bacteria in their guts from non-autistic people. This make them suffer from gastrointestinal disorders.

Researchers have shown that it is possible to distinguish between autistic and non-autistic children by looking at the by-products of intestinal bacteria and the body’s metabolic processes in the children’s urine.

The different makeup of bacteria in autistic children’s guts could also help scientists to develop treatments to tackle autistic people’s gastrointestinal problems.

However, the exact biological significance of gastrointestinal disorders in the development of autism is yet to be identified.

The researchers are now keen to ascertain whether metabolic differences in people with autism are related to the causes of the condition or are a consequence of its progression.

“Autism is a condition that affects a person’s social skills, so at first it might seem strange that there’s a relationship between autism and what’s happening in someone’s gut,” state professor Jeremy Nicholson, the corresponding author of the study, who is the Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London.

Researchers hope the new findings could towards creating a simple urine test to diagnose autism at a really young age.

Such a test, however, could take many years to develop.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders. Autistic children shows social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism disorders. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females.

A child with ASD may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

Children with autism may fail to respond to their names and often avoid eye contact with other people.

They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior.  They lack empathy.

Scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

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