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Emory University studies blood test that may detect Autism earlier

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA -

Autism is diagnosed by watching children's behavior and performance on developmental tests. Emory University will now be one of twenty places across the country to study the accuracy of a blood test to detect Autism.

Currently, the average age for Autism diagnosis is 4-and-a-half-years-old. The condition is diagnosed by watching children's behavior and performance on developmental tests, since it often affects a child's speech, and ability to communicate and interact.

Stephanie Medlin, Mother of 2-year-old twins with autism, says she knew something was wrong when her two year old twins weren't talking  much. "They had about three or four words that they could use correctly [when] they should have had ten to twenty words," she says.

It took months of  behavioral tests, uncertainty and delays to find out the twins had Autism.

"It's really hard to be a parent in that limbo, because you absolutely want to do the best that you can for your children" Medlin says. "Had it been something that could have just had a doctor say, ‘yes there you go,' it would have been fantastic."

The ability to detect Autism at an earlier age would have major implications for treatment. 

Dr. Michael Morrier, Emory Autism Center, explains that the blood test looks for a specific type of genetic marker that indicates if an individual is at risk for having Autism.  He says, "It would basically be able to get kids into treatment earlier, and really help some of the symptoms from developing."

Even if the test works, doctors say it won't catch all Autism. Still, Morrier feels that narrowing down diagnoses for even some patients would be a tremendous help. "Just because you have a blood test doesn't mean you can cure a disability, but it will mean, yes, we can start treatment as early as possible," he says.   

Emory is looking for 50 children between the ages of 18-months and 5-years-old to participate in the study.

Original report by Diana Davis, WSB-TV.

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