Currently, a diagnosis of schizophrenia relies on assessments from mental health experts, but a new study suggests that a blood test could determine who is at high risk for schizophrenia. This could lead to earlier treatment in the prodromal phase of the illness and better outcomes, according to Dr. Diana O. Perkins of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues.
For the study, researchers took blood samples from 32 patients with symptoms that suggested a high risk for psychosis and blood samples of 35 control subjects. The team followed up with the patients for 2 years, conducting clinical assessments every 6 months. The results showed that researchers could determine which of the 32 patients would develop psychosis through the presence of 15 specific markers in the blood.
Of the 32 patients, “14 had schizophrenia, 13 had unspecified psychosis, two had major depression with psychotic features, one had bipolar disorder, one had schizoaffective disorder and one had delusional disorder.”
“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 toward novel pathways that could be targets for preventative interventions,” said Dr. Perkins. The researchers note that these findings show promise in identifying new targets for psychosis prevention but add that more research is needed.