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Researchers identify markers of PTSD in the blood

Researchers have identified four biomarkers in the blood that can predict an individual's likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This discovery is significant because PTSD can be difficult to diagnose due to the overlap of symptoms with other disorders. Furthermore, predicting and preventing PTSD can improve the care of those suffering from the disorder. The research, involving over 1,000 service members, represents the largest prospective study to date to assess the biological markers of PTSD over time. The study provides valuable insights into the natural history of PTSD and the effectiveness of interventions, which can inform the development of treatment guidelines and improve the care for individuals suffering from PTSD.


Biomarkers


Biomarkers are measurable indicators of biological processes, providing an objective measure of physiological changes associated with diseases such as PTSD. The four biomarkers analyzed in this study were the glycolytic ratio, arginine, serotonin, and glutamate. These biomarkers have previously been linked to stress, depression, anxiety, and mental health disorders.


The Study

Researchers analyzed blood samples from active-duty service members taken before a 10-month deployment, three days after their return, and three to six months after their return. Participants were classified as having PTSD, sub-threshold PTSD, or no PTSD based on their clinical diagnosis and PTSD symptoms. Researchers also classified participants' resilience based on a combination of factors including PTSD, anxiety, sleep quality, alcohol use disorders, combat exposures, traumatic brain injury, and general physical and mental health.


Findings


Comparing the four biomarkers in people with different PTSD status and levels of resilience, the results showed that those with PTSD or sub-threshold PTSD had significantly higher glycolytic ratio and lower arginine than those with high resilience. People with PTSD also had significantly lower serotonin and higher glutamate than those with high resilience. These associations were independent of factors such as gender, age, body mass index, smoking, and caffeine consumption.


Implications


The biomarkers identified in this study could help to predict which individuals face a high risk of PTSD, improve the accuracy of PTSD diagnosis, and improve overall understanding of the drivers and effects of PTSD. Improved methods of screening and predicting PTSD could inform better treatment approaches by providing a deeper understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms of the disorder. This could lead to the development of more targeted and effective treatments for PTSD or identify specific subtypes of PTSD that may respond differently to different treatments.

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