Urine test for autism may be on the horizon

Published on January 1, 1975

Pedatric SuperSite, JUNE 8, 2010 - Researchers may be able to develop a noninvasive urine test for autism after finding that the urine of children with autism has a different metabolic composition from those who are not diagnosed with the disorder, according to recent study data.

Researchers from the Imperial College London and the University of South Australia collected urine samples of children with autism, their siblings and those who did not have the disorder aged 3 to 9 years from the Australian site. The researchers then compared the specimens with those gathered from a group of controls, recruited from the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel. Study participants included 39 children with autism, 28 siblings and 34 controls.

Results indicated that children with autism showed subtle differences in urinary succinate, N-methyl nicotinic acid and N-methylnicotinamide when compared with controls. Projection latent structure discriminant analysis with UV-scaled spectral data also suggested clear disparities between children with autism and the controls and some differences between those with autism and their siblings.

"We hope our findings might be the first step toward creating a simple urine test to diagnose autism at a really young age, although this is a long way off - such a test could take many years to develop, and we're just beginning to explore the possibilities," Jeremy Nicholson, PhD,study researcher and head of the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, said in a press release. "We know that giving therapy to children with autism when they are very young can make a huge difference to their progress. A urine test might enable professionals to quickly identify children with autism and help them early on."

The researchers also noted that children with autism had higher numbers of Clostridium histolyticum bacteria in their fecal microbiota. Their siblings also showed elevated numbers of this group of bacteria, although they were not as high as those found in autistic individuals, leading the researchers to speculate that gut microbiota may potentially play a role in the development of the disorder.

"Autism is a condition that affects a person's social skills, so at first, it might seem strange that there's a relationship between autism and what's happening in someone's gut," Nicholson said. "However, your metabolism and the makeup of your gut bacteria reflect all sorts of things, including your lifestyle and your genes. Autism affects many different parts of a person's system, and our study shows that you can see how it disrupts their system by looking at their metabolism and their gut bacteria."

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