Today I read an article about a doctor who is marketing a home bipolar genetic test. This is very worrisome on so many levels, I am not sure where to start. First of all, as I have asked before in this space, why aren't persons with possible mental illness seeking medical attention? Stigma, that's why. Instead of asking a doctor for a diagnosis, people with mental illness would rather take an online quiz to get diagnosed, search for cures via the internet, and will now pay $399.00 for a home genetic test of questionable value!
I am totally in favor of genetic testing for mental illnesses. Increasing our knowledge of the cause of these debilitating conditions will only improve our successful and efficient treatment of them. However, this test is based on very loose and very preliminary scientific data. It is based on only two genes which are present in people with and without bipolar disorder.
Among hundreds of families Kelsoe has studied, one of the gene variations inAs noted above, the two genes are present only 2% and 8% more often in those with bipolar disorder than in those without the disease. Two genes. Less than 10% difference in prevalence. These are hardly eye-popping numbers! We've got culture, environment, socio-economic factors, genetics...It seems a bit premature, perhaps irresponsible to market a test purporting to diagnose bipolar disorder based on only two barely significant genes.
the Psynomics test showed up in 1 percent of those unaffected by the disorder
versus 3 percent who are affected. The other variation appeared in 7 percent of
those without bipolar compared to 15 percent who have the disease.
What does releasing this test now accomplish? With so little science to base them on, the results will have little to no meaning. They'd be irrelevant, really. Unfortunately, consumers will see the results only as science, not as thinly supported, almost unsupported, irrelevant science. And that is dangerous. The doc will be $399.00 richer. The consumer will be $399.00 poorer. And what has been accomplished? False negatives. False positives. Results without meaning? If the research supporting the test looks hopeful, why not wait to release the test when it can actually provide meaningful results?