While a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is currently made based on behavioral observations, a biological test in which a child’s saliva is examined for certain proteins may one day be used to make a diagnosis.
Researchers at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, led by Armand Ngounou Wetie, a Clarkson PhD student, examined saliva from six children, between the ages of 6 and 16, who had been diagnosed with autism as well as six normally developing children.
Using mass spectrometry, the researchers were able to measure differences in proteins between the two groups. Nine proteins were significantly higher in the autism group, while another three were lower or even non-existent in the group, compared to the control group, the reported in the journal Autism Research.
The proteins identified are involved in immune system responses, or are typically elevated in people with gastrointestinal problems.
While the researchers said their work holds promise for a potential autism diagnostic test, further studies are necessary to confirm the protein markers are consistently different in people with autism. They added that plan to further examine the protein differences in more children with autism, as well in autism subtypes.
Researchers at Clarkson University and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh have published the first study showing that children with autism spectrum disorder have differences in protein levels in their saliva when compared to typically developing children. The study appeared in the journal Autism Research.
Autism spectrum disorder currently affects one in 68 US children, and the number of people diagnosed with autism continues to rise. Diagnosis is currently made based on behavioral observations, but no biological test for autism exists. A biological test could aid in earlier diagnosis, helping to direct people with autism to interventions.