The technology can be used to identify children at risk of autism and get them into treatment programmes sooner, said Zee.

Seventy children were tested using the technology, 46 with autism and a control group of 24. The technology was able to identify the children with autism 95.7 per cent of the time. The average age tested was 13, with the youngest being six.

Zee's findings have been published in EClinicalMedicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Autism specialists welcomed his findings but said there remained a huge stigma, with parents often reluctant to believe their children have autism even when there are clear signs.

"Many times, parents will initially be in denial," said Caleb Knight, who runs a private autism therapy centre.

"If you had a medical test or biological marker like this, it might facilitate parents not going into denial for longer periods and therefore the child would get treatment more quickly."

Children with autism have to wait around 80 weeks to see a specialist in the public medical sector, according to an emailed statement from Hong Kong's government.

Zee told Reuters that his research is intended to be a supplemental tool to a professional assessment by licensed healthcare professionals.

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