(HealthDay News) — A multi-assay, serum-based test can be used to distinguish individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) from controls, with high specificity and sensitivity, according to a study published online Dec. 13 in Molecular Psychiatry.

George I. Papakostas, M.D., from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues investigated the diagnostic performance of a multi-assay, serum-based test in patients with MDD. Serum levels of nine biomarkers in peripheral blood were compared in a pilot study involving 36 patients with MDD and 43 non-depressed controls. Results were replicated in a cohort of 34 patients with MDD. Biomarkers were selected on the basis of previous exploratory analyses. A positive test, indicating presence of MDD, was defined as a score of ≥50.

In the pilot study, the researchers found that the assay had a sensitivity of 91.7% and a specificity of 81.3% for differentiation of patients with MDD from controls. In the replication study, sensitivity and specificity were 91.1% and 81%, respectively.

“The results of the present study suggest that this test can differentiate MDD subjects from non-depressed controls with adequate sensitivity and specificity. Further research is needed to confirm the performance of the test across various age and ethnic groups, and in different clinical settings,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including Ridge Diagnostics, which funded the study and developed the diagnostic assay tested in the study.

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