© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Politics and Government

Spit test, mostly developed in Syracuse, can help doctors diagnose autism early

Ellen Abbott
Upstate Medical University researcher Frank Middleton.

A spit test that can help doctors diagnose autism in young children, is now on the market. It was developed in part, by researchers in Syracuse.

Upstate Medical University co-lead investigator Frank Middleton said researchers found that certain RNA and microbes found in saliva, are different for autistic children. Armed with that knowledge, researchers worked with Quadrant Biosciences of Syracuse to develop Clarifi ASD, the first epigenetic test for autism spectrum disorder. Middleton said this will help physicians who use a child’s behavior and development to make an autism diagnosis.

"Having this biological second opinion that doesn’t depend on the situation, that’s a big difference to them,” Middleton said.

Right now, the average age of a diagnosis of autism is about five years old. Middleton believes this test could cut that diagnosis time in half.

“Early detection can be a game changer for those children with autism spectrum disorder, because it could get them access to earlier services and change the trajectory of their life,” Middleton said. “It’s so important there should be some type of intervention if a child is suspected of being on the autism spectrum disorder, that the American Academy of Pediatrics just changed their position last month and said just that.”

New recommendations say that if a child is thought to be on the spectrum even before a final diagnosis, a treatment plan should be in place. The test, which uses a swab to gather saliva from a child’s mouth, must be ordered by a physician, and is not covered by insurance at this point. It costs $989, and is available in every state except for New York. It needs approval from the state Health Department, which is expected sometime this year.