It’s an illness that fortunately only affects 1% of the global population… but for those diagnosed, schizophrenia is one of the most mentally paralyzing, debilitating brain disorders.
It can be dangerous, too, with some victims becoming “possessed” to the point of committing crimes.
The key issue here – as with pretty much any disease or condition – is diagnosis.
Namely, getting it right – and getting it early.
But this is a serious problem with schizophrenia. There’s no clinical test that can diagnose the condition.
Remarkably, “a [current] diagnosis of schizophrenia is still based on a patient interview with questions like ‘do you hear voices?’ or ‘do you believe people are out to get you?’ If someone doesn’t tell you ‘yes,’ you’ll have no idea.”
That’s according to Sabine Bahn, a professor of molecular psychiatry at Cambridge University.
Not exactly fool-proof. But she’s aiming to change that with an innovative new test…
The Blood Test That’s 83% Accurate
For years, Bahn and her team at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology have tried to come up with a more specific, scientific test for schizophrenia.
The problem is, those tests have proved prohibitively expensive.
However, they’ve now created a simple, low-cost blood test that could not only give a faster diagnosis, but also an accurate one.
In trials, Bahn’s team identified 51 proteins associated with different kinds of mental illness and then took blood samples from the blood of 600 schizophrenia patients, as well as healthy volunteers. Using an algorithm to determine the probability of developing a mental disorder, the test correctly diagnosed schizophrenia with 83% accuracy. It also pinpointed depression with 90% certainty.
It represents a “huge leap in our understanding,” according to Noam Shomron, Director of Israel’s Rare Genomics Institute and Manager of the Functional Genomics Lab at Tel Aviv University.
It’s a far cry from simply guessing, based on interviews, or dismissing symptoms as something that’s “all in the mind and quite abstract,” says Bahn. “But if a patient can also see some abnormality in the blood, you can relate to it in the real world,” she continues.
While the blood test isn’t yet advanced or accurate enough to be used as a diagnostic tool on its own, it will give doctors a crucial edge when it comes to identifying potential cases.
Bahn’s team at Cambridge is working with Myriad Genetics (MYGN) and hopes to officially launch the test within 18 months.
Check out the video below, where schizophrenia patient, Kirsty Trigg, explains how the test has made a huge difference to her life. Having endured 11 years of misery, the test diagnosed her and has allowed her to get appropriate treatment, return to work, and gain control over her life, away from the “constant, persistent interruptions” and “fighting with my head.”
Ahead of the tape,