It’s a condition researchers at Upstate Medical University say affects 1 in 68 children.
And now they're coming closer to releasing a test that could help diagnose autism earlier using saliva samples.
“It was clear that saliva sampling was going to have some advantage over blood sampling, particularly for children who have autism spectrum disorder because of the issues surrounding getting access to a blood vessel. Having them sit still,” said Upstate Medical University Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology Frank Middleton.
Dr. Frank Middleton says saliva contains microRNA. And examining a child's microRNA, may give clues about brain function.
“This is a very short swab. All we're doing is holding it in the floor of the mouth and it's soaking up saliva for about five seconds. We do that on each side of the moth and that's all we need to do,” he said.
Currently there's no medical test available. For the diagnosis, parents typically go through a screening, or questionnaire about their child's behavior. The next step is a full evaluation, but the wait time can be more than a year.
“A year where you could have intervention and make a real difference on a developing brain is a year lost if all you're doing is waiting,” he said.
While the prototype saliva test wouldn't replace a full exam, experts say it may help children get the resources they need quicker.
“The earlier someone is diagnosed, the better the interventions can be. The applied behavioral therapy, the different things that you can do with a child you can work with the children and the families to make a difference in their lives,” said Quadrant Biosciences Quadrant Epigenetics President Cynthia Dowd Greene.
The test will be launched this year for clinicians to use across the country.