Bipolar disorder: can we really detect it in our blood?
6 mins read

Bipolar disorder: can we really detect it in our blood?

Will a bipolar person soon be able to be detected through a blood test? We are not there yet, according to Doctor Boris Chaumette, psychiatrist and researcher at Inserm, who nevertheless welcomes recent scientific progress with a view to diagnosing these patients earlier. In France, the medical wandering of patients suffering from this chronic mental illness is estimated at around ten years.

A blood test designed to detect bipolar disordera chronic mental illness that affects between 1 and 2.5% of French people, has recently been in the news a lot. Designed by the French start-up Alcediag with Synlab laboratories, myEDIT-B promises to be “the first blood test to help diagnose mental health” soon available under medical prescription. It is aimed at people considered depressed, who may have been misdiagnosed. But psychiatric professionals, such as the AFPBN (French association of biological psychiatry and neuropsychopharmacology) have already issued big doubts on its efficiency.

An “oversold” test?

Bipolar disorder is difficult to detect because it involvesa sickness who has many faces. It is characterized by an alternation between several more or less powerful episodes, with a so-called “manic” phaseor euphoric, energetic, with an exaltation of mood, during which one may risk taking financial, emotional, sexual risks, etc., and a phase of depression, with the danger of having suicidal thoughts and taking action. Today, the only way to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder is to have been evaluated by a specialist psychiatrist. But we estimate that before, the patient goes through on average 8 years of medical wandering. This is why, to improve the chances of diagnosing patients, several research is being carried out in parallel on the development of blood tests. Except that, for the moment, it is not “Not possible” to test one’s bipolarity through a blood test, estimates Boris Chaumette, doctor in psychiatry and neuroscience and member of the AFPBN. The Inserm researcher assures that the possibility of screening through this means has been “oversold”.

Blood screening: how does it work?

The test consists of detecting biomarkers bipolarity, i.e. signs of the presence of the disease in the blood, by analyzing theRNA. “To schematize, theDNAit’s a book with letters, and RNA is the photocopy of our DNA which circulates, and which has sometimes been corrected, as if the letters had been modified.” explains Boris Chaumette. The research consists of identifying gene modifications that correspond to the presence of bipolar disorder, using a next-generation sequencing technique and artificial intelligence. The new test announces in a press release that it can distinguish between depressed people and bipolar people with over 80% efficiency. “It’s very interesting, but the problem with this test is that it is only based on studies that are not not very convincing in terms of methodologyassures the researcher, who insists on the need for new research to confirm the effectiveness. He also denounces too high a price (around 900 euros) which is not not reimbursed by Social Securityeven if the start-up Alcediag claims to have launched the process.

Hope disappointed?

“There is a very great hope from patients and their families around blood tests (…) efforts have been made in this direction by researchers for years, and it is very commendable, we encourage them”, he assures. Indeed, such a biological indication could help psychiatrists to make the correct diagnosis. But the association of psychiatrists that he represents believes that‘there is currently no sufficiently reliable means which fulfills this function, that is why she does not recommend its use clinical “in the current state of knowledge”.

For Boris Chaumette, as long as science has not found an effective solution, other measures, notably political, could be taken to improve the screening of bipolar, such as “improve access to psychiatric care”but also “invest in the training of medical staff”. The stakes are high, because this disorder could affect 1.6 million French people, according to the PositiveMinders association, which has designed a tool for parents to detect early signs among adolescents. “What the studies show with certainty is that the sooner we implement effective treatment, the better the recovery will be” faced with this chronic illness, concludes the specialist.

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