Researchers develop blood test that predicts future risks for ‘schizophrenia’

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San Francisco, Feb 10 (IANS) A team of researchers has developed a new blood test for ‘schizophrenia’ — a psychiatric disorder that includes hallucinations and delusions, which predicts future risks for the disease and match them to treatments.

According to the study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the new blood test identifies biomarkers in a person’s blood that can objectively measure their current severity and future risk for schizophrenia and match them to treatments that will be most effective for their individual biology.

“Schizophrenia is hard to diagnose, especially early on, and matching people to the right treatment from the beginning is very important,” said Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD, Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and senior author of the study.

“Stress and drugs, including marijuana, are precipitating factors on a background of genetic vulnerability. If left unchecked, psychosis leads to accumulating biological damage, social damage and psychological damage,” he added.

In a study, the researchers tested psychiatric patients that they followed for over a decade. They identified biomarkers that were predictive of high hallucinations and high delusion states, as well as future psychiatric hospitalisations related to hallucinations and delusions.

They found that the best biomarkers were more predictive than the standard scales used to evaluate someone with hallucinations or delusions, meaning the use of this biomarker test can help reduce subjectivity and uncertainty from psychiatric assessments.

“Fortunately, biologically some of the existing medications work quite well if initiated early in the right patients,” Niculescu said.

“Social support is also paramount, and once that and medications are in place, psychological support and therapy can help as well. There is still plenty left to understand and apply about cognition and its abnormalities, but there is reason for optimism in this era of emerging precision psychiatry,” he added.



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