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Bipolar disorder affects over 60 million people globally. Unfortunately, diagnosing the condition is often challenging as it's usually mistaken for depression. Thankfully, that's about to change. A team of researchers has developed a blood test to diagnose bipolar disorder by identifying certain blood biomarkers specific to the condition.
This is a phenomenal breakthrough in the field of psychiatry. But why is it so significant?
You see, about 300 million people are estimated to be suffering from depression globally. But it's possible that the figure is distorted -- overblown. 40% of that figure could actually be battling with bipolar disorder and not depression.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by manic and depressive episodes. So when a bipolar patient falls into the depressive phase, it's easy to think what they suffer from is major depression.
But the treatment for depression and bipolar disorder differ by a very wide margin. So a bipolar disorder patient who is mistakenly diagnosed with depression will not be getting the right treatment they need.
Since the depressive phase of bipolar disorder is very similar to depression, diagnosing the condition can take up to 7 years for accurate results. But treatment ought to commence immediately, making an early diagnosis extremely necessary. Thanks to the research team, bipolar disorder can now be diagnosed with utmost accuracy through a blood test.
This would be the first time a blood test would be used to diagnose bipolar disorder. There are six biomarkers in the blood present in bipolar disorder patients but absent in those suffering from depression. By identifying these biomarkers using a blood test that combines RNA editing and AI, the research team was able to differentiate easily between bipolar and major depressive disorders. The test is said to have an accuracy greater than 80%.
Now, psychiatrists can diagnose their patients with a high level of accuracy and speed so that treatment can begin as quickly as possible. This will lead to better mental health outcomes since patients are getting the right treatment earlier.
The research was published in the leading scientific journal Nature. The team comprised researchers from Alcediag, Montpellier University Hospital, and Les Toises Psychiatry Centre in Lausanne, together with Professor David J. Kupfer from the University of Pittsburgh.