Researchers at Ohio State University in the US have reported that a vitamin-D blood test can aid in the fast and accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children.

The team reached the conclusion after discovering that the levels of a vitamin-D-associated binding protein are higher in children with bipolar disorder than children without it.

This was observed in a study in 12 children with bipolar disorder, 11 suffering from major depressive disorder and 13 without such disorders.

Lead author of the research, Ouliana Ziouzenkova, believes finding a reliable blood marker can enhance care and minimise the current ten-year average lag time from onset to diagnosis of the condition.

“The levels of a vitamin-D-associated binding protein are higher in children with bipolar disorder than children without it.”

It is further expected that early and precise diagnosis will enable the provision of ‘proper’ therapy.

Ohio State University clinical psychiatry and nutrition associate professor Barbara Gracious said: “Childhood bipolar disorder can be very difficult to distinguish from other disorders, especially in youth with certain types of depression.

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“Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment alleviates the suffering of the child and family, and can potentially lessen the risk for suicide.”

The researchers decided to analyse the vitamin-D binding protein based on its potential involvement in brain inflammation. They observed that the nutrient form of the vitamin has less diagnostic power than the binding protein.

The significance of this biomarker is yet to be validated and the team is planning for a bigger study to assess the blood that has already been obtained from both paediatric and adult patients.

Ziouzenkova said: “We want to help psychiatrists and other doctors diagnose children early and accurately. Once bipolar disorder progresses, it is more challenging to treat.”

The researcher further noted that upon confirmation of the findings, development of a blood test will be straightforward and relatively inexpensive.