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13 September 2012

Possible genetic test to predict autism

Australian scientists say they've developed a genetic test to predict autism spectrum disorder in children, which could help with early detection and intervention.

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Australian scientists say they've developed a genetic test to predict autism spectrum disorder in children, which could help with early detection and intervention, according to a study. At this point, they admit, they've only tested it in a "genetically homogeneous group".

The researchers used US data from more than 3 000 individuals with autism enrolled in the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) database. There were able to identify 237 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 146 genes and related cellular pathways.

By measuring these markers, which either contribute to or protect an individual from developing autism, scientists could assess the risk of developing autism. "This test could assist in the early detection of the condition in babies and children and help in the early management of those who become diagnosed," lead researcher Stan Skafidas from University of Melbourne said in a statement.

70% accuracy

The test correctly predicted autism with more than 70% accuracy in people of central European descent, with study into other ethnic groups continuing. The test would allow clinicians to provide early intervention to reduce behavioural and cognitive difficulties in people with autism.

"Early identification of risk means we can provide interventions to improve overall functioning for those affected, including families," clinical neuropsychologist and study co-author Renee Testa said in a statement. The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry.

(Reuters Health, September 2012)

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