Approximately six years ago the Pentagon funded a study, led by a team of researchers from top medical schools, to develop a blood test that could identify active military servicemembers or veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Published in Nature’s journal of Molecular Psychiatry on September 10, 2019, the study tracked blood samples from 165 veterans, half of whom suffer from PTSD after war zone deployments. The biochemistry and medical histories of these veterans were studied by researchers and scientists, who trimmed down the list of more than 1 million potential identifying characteristics in their blood, to only 27.
These telltale indicators that the body produces at the molecular level, when combat soldiers have been exposed to battlefield trauma, indicate these veterans are likely to have problems coping with lingering stress or may suffer from PTSD.
Researchers said the findings support past hypotheses that the disorder “affects not just the brain, but the entire body.” An accurate blood test would mean all troops who return from combat would get an objective screening. If tests came back positive for the potential of PTSD, they would then be sent to a clinician for in-depth assessment.
The test, which will ultimately require Food and Drug Administration approval, could be used for police and other first responders, as well as civilians who have experienced trauma. The test is not foolproof and cannot effectively diagnose PTSD or eliminate the need for thorough clinical examination. The goal of the study is to flag initial indicators, rather than provide a definitive diagnosis.
A positive blood test corresponds with what troops or clinicians report 77% of the time, according to researchers. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that some 11% to 20% of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq are diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. Not all of those cases are from combat, as some are a result of military sexual trauma and other psychologically harmful experiences.
Researchers said these types of tests could lead to predictively assessing if a soldier was at risk for developing PTSD, though the priority for now is getting treatment for those who need it. Data is now being gathered on paratroopers in order to compare their blood chemistry before and after potentially traumatic experiences.
Ideally these tests could help break down the stigma behind mental-health issues in the military. Screening military servicemembers who have endured traumatic events, has the potential to show troops how widespread problems are among their ranks and once those problems are found and addressed, recovery is possible.
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Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/2019/09/10/new-blood-test-could-help-identify-troops-and-veterans-with-ptsd/
The full study published in Molecular Psychiatry can be read here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-019-0496-z