New test helps find those at risk for bipolar disorder

NORMAL, Ill. – With the difficulty of diagnosing bipolar disorder, a new test provides some insight on treating patients who may have tried other medications and procedures.

According to Sandy Colbs, director of Illinois State University Student Health Services, bipolar disorder is said to have a very strong biological basis as a chemical balance.

“It results in a variety of symptoms including symptoms of depression and symptoms of mania which are periods of either a very positive euphoric mood or sometimes very irritable mood, impulsive behavior and some difficulties in focusing thoughts,” Colbs said.

John Kelsoe, a psychiatric geneticist at the University of California in San Diego, has spent the past 15 years researching bipolar disorder.

“To seek the genetic basis of certain forms of mental disorders … he started to identify certain genes that linked to well characterized illnesses,” Kurt May, chief executive officer and founder of Psynomics, said.

The company, Psynomics, now produces a test that can be ordered over the Internet to help detect the gene associated with bipolar disorder, or the mutations of it. Even though the test is purchased over the Internet, the consumer only has a small part in the testing process.

“The patient goes on our Web site and signs up to order the test. This is very much like a contact lens cleaning kit. It’s just a little plastic cup, you unscrew the kit, spit into the cup and seal it back up,” May said.

The saliva sample is then sent back to the company where a pathologist and a board certified psychiatrist review the results of the test. If the genes are present, there is a 200 to 300 percent increase in the probability of the patient having bipolar disorder.

The results of the test along with the appropriate medication suggestions are sent to the patient’s physician, not the patient.

“The doctor is in charge of patient care throughout the process. We do this deliberately. This is very different from the business models of some of the other providers in the marketplace because in absolutely no way is this in-home testing,” May said.

Only individuals who have symptoms that could be associated with bipolar disorder, and are currently under the care of a physician, are appropriate for the testing.

The test provides some insight on a disorder that is hard to diagnose. Sometimes patients are considered depressed and are given antidepressants. May said this could make the problem worse and add to the frustration of the patient.

“The suffering continues, expenses continue, time drags on and productivity is lost. Our goal is to try this tool, and see if we can get you to the right diagnosis and the right medication,” May said.

Colbs said tests that could be purchased online could give an individual unwanted and unnecessary anxiety.

“If a person is not experiencing any symptoms, and let’s say they test positive on this. You could end up with somebody who is unnecessarily anxious about having a disorder that they have no symptoms of and have no evidence of having,” Colbs said.

Anyone who is thinking of purchasing a test over the Internet should talk to their health care professional beforehand.

“I think the best energy can be spent trying to find a medical professional that you can trust, that you can really talk through what you are experiencing with and partner with them,” Colbs said.

For those who have discussed illnesses with a medical professional and think the test is a possible option for them, the product is produced by Psynomics and is priced at $399.