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Pentagon-funded blood test could identify soldiers suffering from PTSD with 80% accuracy

Pentagon-funded blood test could identify soldiers suffering from PTSD with 80% accuracy, study finds

  • Researchers identified 28 blood biomarkers that could indicated signs of PTSD
  • Both veterans who had and had not been diagnosed with PTSD underwent the tests
  • Blood test results matched previous diagnoses made with 77% accuracy  

A simple blood test could be a more accurate way of diagnosing active military members and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study says.

Researchers say that biomarkers are produced in the body after a person experiences trauma and has trouble managing the after effects – much like that of a solider in a war zone.

When veterans with and without PTSD underwent the blood test, physicians were able to correctly diagnose the condition with nearly 80 percent accuracy.

The effort, funded by the Pentagon and led by New York University School of Medicine, signals a shift towards diagnosing mental health issues with lab tests – like most medical fields – rather than through self-reporting

A new study, led by NYU School of Medicine, has found that biomarkers are produced in the body after a soldier experiences trauma in a war zone and has trouble managing the after effects (file image) 

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is caused by an overactive fear memory and includes a broad range of psychological symptoms that can develop after someone goes through a traumatic event.

About 70 percent of US adults – 223.4 million people – have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.

And an estimated eight percent of Americans, or 24.4 million people, have PTSD at any given time.  

Estimates differ but the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) believes as many as 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War suffer from PTSD.

When it comes to Vietnam War veterans, the VA estimates that about 30 percent have experienced PTSD. 

What’s more, US veterans with PTSD are more than twice as likely as the general population to commit suicide.

‘While work remains to further validate our panel, it holds tremendous promise as the first blood test that can screen for PTSD with a level of accuracy useful in the clinical setting,’ said senior author Dr Charles Marmar, chair of the department of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. 

‘If we are successful, this test would be one of the first of its kind – an objective blood test for a major psychiatric disorder.’ 

For the study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, the team recruited 83 war zone-exposed veterans diagnosed with PTSD and 82 veterans who were healthy controls.

Using molecular tests, researchers narrowed down their biomarkers to 28 and had all the veterans undergo the blood tests.

Then, they compared their results with diagnoses that were made prior to the study. 

Researchers said that the blood test accurately matched the clinical diagnosis 77 percent of the time. 

‘These molecular signatures will continue to be refined and adapted for commercialization,’ said co-senior author Dr Marti Jett, chief scientist in Systems Biology for the US Army Medical Research & Development Command.

‘The Department of Health Affairs within the Department of Defense is considering this approach as a potential screening tool that could identify service members, before and after deployment, with features of unresolved post-traumatic stress.’ 

If eventually approved by the FDA, all soldiers returning from combat would be undergo the test, whether or not they reported suffering from PTSD.

Then, if the tests are positive, the soldier will be sent to a doctor or clinician for further analysis.

The team says that the blood test could also be used for police officers, first responders and even the general population. 


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