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Sep 27, 2014 06:49 AM EDT

Blood Tests Can Identify Psychosis Risk in Psychiatric Patients, Study

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Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have developed a novel method to accurately diagnose early stages of psychosis. A simple blood test has been found to identify psychiatric patients who are at a high risk of developing psychosis

"The blood test included a selection of 15 measures of immune and hormonal system imbalances as well as evidence of oxidative stress," said Diana O. Perkins, professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study, in a press release.

"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 towards novel pathways that could be targets for preventative interventions."

Psychosis is a medical condition characterised by hallucinations or delusions that define the development of severe mental disorders like schizophrenia. Schizophrenia occurs in late adolescence and early adulthood and affects about 1 in every 100 people.

"Modern, computer-based methods can readily discover seemingly clear patterns from nonsensical data," said Clark D. Jeffries, bioinformatics scientist at the UNC-based Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI). "Added to that, scientific results from studies of complex disorders like schizophrenia can be confounded by many hidden dependencies. Thus, stringent testing is necessary to build a useful classifier. We did that."

The finding is published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

A recent University of Cambridge study found that Children, who consume high amounts of protein in response to infection, face heightened risk of developing depression and psychosis in adulthood. The finding, as a result, indicates that mental illness and chronic physical illness like coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes may share common biological mechanisms.

"Our immune system acts like a thermostat, turned down low most of the time, but cranked up when we have an infection. In some people, the thermostat is always set slightly higher, behaving as if they have a persistent low level infection - these people appear to be at a higher risk of developing depression and psychosis," Dr Golam Khandaker from the Department of Psychiatry said in a press release. "It's too early to say whether this association is causal, and we are carrying out additional studies to examine this association further."

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