Researchers have developed a blood test that predicts if a person with risk factors for psychosis will go on to develop psychosis.
Investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe the discovery is an important step forward in the accurate diagnosis of people who are experiencing the earliest stages of psychosis.
Psychosis includes hallucinations or delusions that define the development of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia emerges in late adolescence and early adulthood and affects about one in every 100 people. In severe cases, the impact on a young person can be a life compromised, and the burden on family members can be almost as severe.
The study has been published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
“The blood test included a selection of 15 measures of immune and hormonal system imbalances as well as evidence of oxidative stress,” said Diana O. Perkins, M.D., M.P.H.
“While further research is required before this blood test could be clinically available, these results provide evidence regarding the fundamental nature of schizophrenia, and point towards novel pathways that could be targets for preventative interventions,” Perkins said.
The research was conducted as part of an international effort to understand risk factors and mechanisms for development of psychotic disorders.
“Modern, computer-based methods can readily discover seemingly clear patterns from nonsensical data,” said Clark D. Jeffries, Ph.D., a bioinformatics scientist and co-author of the study. “Added to that, scientific results from studies of complex disorders like schizophrenia can be confounded by many hidden dependencies.
“Thus, stringent testing is necessary to build a useful classifier. We did that.”
Researchers believe the multiplex blood assay, if independently replicated and if integrated with studies of other classes of biomarkers, has the potential to be of high value in the clinical setting.