Researchers have developed a blood test that can be used to measure someone’s risk of developing anxiety, how severe their anxiety is and which therapies are most likely to work for them.
The test examines ribonucleic acid (RNA) biomarkers in a patient’s blood and can give physicians a more accurate picture of what the patient is experiencing.
Currently, the only way for a doctor to diagnose anxiety issues is through speaking to the patient directly and assessing their answers, which can lead to inaccurate analysis and doctors even missing symptoms.
The results of the tests have been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. For the study, participants completed a blood test every three to six months or whenever a new psychiatric hospital admission occurred.
By examining RNA biomarkers, researchers could identify a patient’s state of anxiety and match them with suitable medications, showing the likely effectiveness of different options based on the patient’s biology.
Professor Alexander Niculescu, lead author of the study, says there has been a need for an objective anxiety test for some time and that anxiety patients are often misdiagnosed.
“There are people who have anxiety and it is not properly diagnosed,” he says.
“Then they have panic attacks, but think they’re having a heart attack and up in the ER with all sorts of physical symptoms.
“If we can know that earlier, then we can hopefully avoid this pain and suffering and treat them earlier with something that matches their profile.”
Prof. Niculescu has already developed blood tests for pain, depression/bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He says this new test could be used in combination with those other blood tests, providing a more comprehensive view of a patient’s mental health and risk of future mental health concerns.
It will also be possible to use the test to develop new treatments for anxiety that are more targeted to individual biomarkers.
“This is something that could be a panel test as part of a patient’s regular wellness visits to evaluate their mental health over time and prevent any future distress,” Prof. Niculescu said.
“Prevention is better in the long run, so our goal is to be able to provide a comprehensive report for patients and their physicians using simply one tube of blood.”
The test could be particularly useful for treating anxiety in older people, who may be reluctant to talk about anxiety issues, even with a doctor.
An objective test would take the guesswork out of it for the physician and potentially lead to better outcomes for the patient.
Have you ever experienced anxiety? Do you think a test like this could help you? Let us know in the comments section below.