Blood used to detect depression

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Posted: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 3:47 pm | Updated: 5:20 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Cholesterol, cancer, even infectious diseases, your blood can help doctors detect them all. Now, blood is being used to figure out what's going on inside your head.

It affects 15-million Americans and impacts women twice as much as men. Angel Schwiefert was diagnosed with depression, also known as major depressive disorder, a few years ago. She tried three different anti-depressants. "We really couldn't get the dosages right or the right medications."

"I worry that these meds are thrown at folks," says James A. Smith, III, MD, Medical Director, Carolina Partners in Mental Health Care.

Psychiatrist Doctor James Smith says with a wide variety of symptoms, diagnosing depression and getting patients the right treatment can mean a lot of trial and error. "Piecing it all together can be a bit of a challenge."

But blood work could now take out some of the guess work. MDD Score is the first blood test to assist in the diagnosis of depression. With a routine blood draw, it measures nine biomarkers and ranks a person's likelihood of having the condition from one to nine. The higher the score the higher the chance of depression. "I see it as extremely accurate."

In studies funded by the test maker, MDD Score was more than 90-percent accurate in catching depression. "MDD Score more than anything else has given me an opportunity to hit it right on the nose."

But Duke Psychiatrist Doctor Harold Koenig has some concerns. "False positives and false negatives, people who are diagnosed with depression with this test who don't have depression, or missing the depression potentially in someone who really has it who wouldn't get the treatment."

Angel scored high on the blood test. "I was totally surprised." She says her psychiatrist upped the dosage of her anti-depressant from 37-point-five to 375-milligrams a day. "I'm much better."

Today, angel's getting back to her favorite pre-depression hobby and believes MDD Score helped her get the life-changing treatment she needed.

While skeptical about the blood test, Doctor Koenig says it could be helpful in diagnosing major depression, but more studies are needed before he's convinced.

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