Lab Test May Help ID Depressive Vs. Bipolar Illness

A recent study suggests a new laboratory test can distinguish distinct biomarkers for two major mental health conditions: bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

Determining an accurate diagnosis of mental conditions that have similar symptoms is not an easy task. Failure to correctly identify a condition may lead to inappropriate or delayed care to individuals sorely in need.

Unfortunately, many patients with bipolar disorder, a debilitating mental condition that can take a person from the sluggishness of severe depression to superhuman energy levels, are often misdiagnosed as having major depressive disorder, or MDD.

The new laboratory test provides an objective measure to help clinicians distinguish between bipolar and MDD and provide better treatment. The method is described in the American Chemical Societies’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Experts say that there are many reasons for bipolar disorder to be mistaken for MDD. One reason is that the condition often first becomes noticeable when the patient has a bout of depression.

And, as bipolar disorder only affects about 1 percent of the population worldwide, clinicians sometimes forget to ask about hypomania, a euphoric, hyperactive state that also characterizes the condition.

Current differential diagnostic techniques involve structured interviews with patients, but these can be subjective and misleading. An accurate diagnosis, however, is crucial to quickly getting patients the treatment they need. In the new study, Peng Xie and colleagues set out to develop an objective way to tell the difference between MDD and bipolar disorder.

To do this, the researchers combined a couple of techniques — gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance — to analyze urine metabolites in samples from patients who either had MDD or bipolar disorder.

This method allowed the researchers to identify a panel of six biomarkers with an 89 to 91 percent chance of predicting each disorder.

Source: American Chemical Society/EurekAlert
Lab test photo by shutterstock.