New blood test for schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a neuro-psychiatric disorder that affects about one percent of the global population.

To date, the diagnosis of mental illnesses is highly subjective and mostly based on clinical interviews. This could now be backed by a new, low-cost blood test developed as part of a European research project.

Researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge have been working on a blood test for schizophrenia for many years.

Initial tests were too expensive, but they have now developed a new version which, they claim, is cheaper and provides more detailed information. The test analyses proteins in the patient’s blood to distinguish between different kinds of mental illnesses.

According to the researchers, with the new test schizophrenia can be diagnosed with a certainty of 83 percent and depression with a certainty of about 90 percent.

“At the moment the problem with psychiatric disorders is that we believe it’s all in the mind and it’s something which is quite abstract. But, if a patient can also see some abnormality in the blood, you can relate to it in the real world,” explained Sabine Bahn, professor of molecular psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

For Kirsty Trigg, who suffers from schizophrenia, the test has made a big difference, allowing her to be clinically diagnosed. Now that she has access to appropriate treatment, she says she is more in control of her daily life.

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