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Heath insurance news - Autism could be detected earlier

It could be possible to detect autism at a much earlier age than previously thought, according to a team of international researchers.

A study published in Current Biology identified differences in infants' brainwaves from as early as six months, while it has previously been thought that behavioural symptoms of the condition develop between a child's first and second birthday.

It is thought that one in every 100 children has an autism spectrum disorder in the UK, while boys are said to be more likely to be affected than girls. There is currently no cure for the disorders though education and behavioural programmes can help.

One of the researchers Professor Mark Johnson from Birbeck College, University of London, told BBC News that the prevailing view is that if doctors are able to intervene before the onset of full symptoms it may be possible to alleviate some of the ailments.

His team looked for the earliest signs of autism in 104 children aged six and ten months. Half were known to be at risk of the disorder because they had an older sibling who had been diagnosed with it, while the others were low risk.

"It is important to note it is not a 100 per cent predictor. We had babies who flagged up warning signs who did not develop autism," he added.

Professor Tony Charman from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at the Institute of Education said differences in the use of eye gaze to regulate social interaction are already a well-recognised early feature in many children with autism.

"Future studies will be required to determine whether measurements of brain function such as those used in our study might one day play a role in helping to identify children at an even earlier age," he continued.

In November, scientists claimed to have found that the extremely rare Timothy syndrome was linked to autism which could help explain the origins of the condition.

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