US researchers have successfully developed a blood test for anxiety that examines biomarkers to help doctors objectively determine a person's risk for developing anxiety, its severity, and therapies best suited for them.
"Many people are suffering from anxiety, which can be very disabling and interfere with daily life," said professor of psychiatry Alexander Niculescu, from Indiana University School of Medicine.
"The current approach is to talk to people about how they feel to see if they could be on medications, but some medications can be addictive and create more problems. We wanted to see if our approach to identify blood biomarkers could help us match people to existing medications that will work better and could be a non-addictive choice," Niculescu added.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, showed that examining the RNA biomarkers in blood samples helped researchers identify a patient's current state of anxiety. They matched them with medications and nutraceuticals, showing how effective different options could be for them based on their biology.
"In addition to medications, there are other methods to treat anxiety, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or lifestyle changes," Niculescu said.
"But having something objective like this where we can know what someone's current state is as well as their future risk and what treatment options match their profile is very powerful in helping people."
A person's biomarkers can also change over time. Niculescu said the test can help evaluate a person's risk of developing higher levels of anxiety in the future as well as how other factors might impact their anxiety, like hormonal changes.
Further, Niculescu said this new test could also be used in combination with the other blood tests his research has led to, providing a more comprehensive view of a patient's mental health and risk of future mental health concerns.
Researchers can also use the test to develop new treatments for anxiety that are more targeted to individual biomarkers.
"This is something that could be a panel test as part of a patient's regular wellness visits to evaluate their mental health over time and prevent any future distress," Niculescu said. "Prevention is better in the long run, so our goal is to be able to provide a comprehensive report for patients and their physicians using simply one tube of blood."