ARISk launched to screen for sibling autism risk

Hot on the heels of recent discoveries of the genetics behind autism, the U.S. subsidiary of the French company IntegraGen has launched ARISk Risk Assessment Test, its genetic biomarker tool for screening children as young as 6 months old for autism spectrum disorder. The test is gender-specific, and is designed to determine the risk of the developmental disorder in siblings of children with autism, as the risk is much higher than in the general population.

ARisk looks at 65 genetic markers, known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms--changes of just a single base in the DNA). While these do not cause autism spectrum disorder, combinations of them have a strong link with a risk of developing it. The test is gender-specific because 29 of the SNPs are only linked with autism in boys, and 28 in girls only.

"We know genetics definitely plays a role, that autism spectrum disorder runs in families and that early diagnosis and intervention are vital in order to achieve the best outcomes," says autism expert Antonio Hardan, M.D., a member of IntegraGen's advisory board. "As a clinician, identifying risks for autism is important, since siblings have a higher chance to develop the disorder in comparison to the general population." 

Early diagnosis, followed by support and intervention, is thought to improve long-term outcomes such as IQ, language and social skills for children with autism spectrum disorder. However, 40 percent of children are not diagnosed until they are 4 1/2 years old, according to the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended screening tool can only be used in children aged 16 months or older.

- read the press release