Premature testification is not a laughing matter

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

“These studies, once validated, open an opportunity for creating tests that an expectant mother can take to see if she is producing these autoantibodies. ”

I wrote this statement back in July as part of a post describing the report that maternal autoantibodies to specific neural proteins correlated with the appearance of autism symptoms in the children of those mothers.  Little did I suspect that plans to create a test were already in the works.  Science recently reported (paywall) that researchers behind this study are teaming up with a testing company to develop and market a diagnostic test for maternal autoantibodies.

On the one hand I am much in favor of prognostic tests that will help us anticipate health problems.  I believe in many cases early knowledge and interventions can be helpful, even when there is no “cure.”  One of the hopes for the wave of genomic biomedical research going on now is that it will allow us to better estimate who will and will not come down with specific diseases based on clues in individuals’ DNA.  But on the other hand, it can be problematic when tests are created and released before the underlying biomedical hypothesis has been strongly vetted and supported. Continue reading