Blood test predicts risk of developing psychotic disorders in childhood

August 31, 2020
Blood test predicts risk of developing psychotic disorders in childhood

A fraction of young people who display mild, transitory psychotic signs and symptoms at an early age will go on to develop a serious psychotic disorder. Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have compiled datasets from several 12-year-olds classified as at a clinically high-risk of psychosis and used machine learning to produce a novel blood test that can predict their risk of developing a full-blown psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, years before the condition develops.

The blood samples of the 12-year-old subjects were collected and analysed until they reached 18 years old. The researchers homed in on a unique pattern of proteins in the samples that distinguished those who ultimately went on to develop a psychotic disorder: ten particular proteins were identified as most predictive; curiously, many of these protein markers predicting psychosis are linked with inflammatory processes.

The researchers were then able to correctly determine which high-risk subjects would go on to develop a psychotic disorder by the age of 18 with 93% accuracy by using the most accurate protein pattern.

However, the test was less accurate in predicting those high-risk 12-year-olds that did not go on to develop a psychosis by the age of 18. But as only between 16 and 35% of young people at clinical high risk ultimately transition to a full psychotic disorder, even this low level of accuracy could be useful in stratifying younger patients more likely to develop psychosis.

David Cotter, a molecular psychiatrist from RCSI, suggests that early detection of those most at risk of developing psychotic disorders is vital for administering preventative treatments. “Ideally, we would like to prevent psychotic disorders, but that requires being able to accurately identify who is most at risk.”

“Our research has shown that, with help from machine learning, analysis of protein levels in blood samples can predict who is at truly at risk and could possibly benefit from preventive treatments,” said Cotter. “We now need to study these markers in other people at high risk of psychosis to confirm our findings.”


Category: Health alert

Comments are closed.