US researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have developed a blood test to detect bleeding in infants caused by abusive head trauma or shaken baby syndrome.

Developed to identify acute intracranial haemorrhage, the serum-based test is yet to be validated in a larger population.

The researchers have partnered with Canada-based molecular diagnostics firm Axela to develop the sensitive test that uses three biomarkers combined with a measure of patient’s haemoglobin level to minimise the risk of missed diagnosis of abusive head trauma. 

Axela’s automated testing system was utilised to simultaneously measure several biomarkers using a very small amount of blood, which is considered to be a test requisite for infants.

The serum samples stored in a databank in the Safar Center were used to establish the Biomarkers for Infant Brain Injury Score (BIBIS), which would determine the infants with or without haemorrhage.

"It was found that the blood test accurately identified acute intracranial haemorrhage caused due to abusive head trauma in 90% of the cases."

The predictive capacity of the score was then assessed in 599 infants who were prospectively recruited at three study sites in the country. 

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It was found that the blood test accurately identified acute intracranial haemorrhage caused by abusive head trauma in 90% of the cases.

Researchers focused on developing a highly sensitive test, rather than enhancing the accuracy, and this was to avoid the serious consequences of a missed diagnosis.

Infants that tested positive would have to be examined further with brain imaging to identify the source of bleeding.