A simple urine test could be developed to detect whether a child has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), US researchers say. OSA, a potentially serious disorder, occurs when throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. An estimated 3% of children younger than age 9 have OSA, which can lead to cognitive, behavioral, cardiovascular and metabolic problems.

Such a test "would alleviate the need for costly and inconvenient sleep studies in children who snore, only about 20% to 30% of whom actually have OSA," said David Gozal, MD, a professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.

The Study Explained

He and his colleagues studied 90 children referred to a sleep clinic for evaluation of breathing problems during sleep, and 30 children who didn't snore. All the children underwent standard overnight sleep tests. Urine samples were collected the morning after the sleep tests.

After screening hundreds of proteins in the children's urine, the researchers found that the expression of a number of the proteins was different in children with OSA than in those with habitual snoring or healthy, non-snoring children.

The finding was reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


"It was rather unexpected that the urine would provide us with the ability to identify OSA," Dr. Gozal said.

"However, the field of biomarkers is one that is under marked expansion, and this certainly opens the way for possible simple diagnostic screening methods in the future," Dr. Gozal said.

"We wish to validate these findings in urine samples from many children from laboratories around the country and to develop a simple test that can be done in the physician office or by the parents," Dr. Gozal said.

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