Autism rates

The CDC just reported findings based on a 2008 study of 8 year olds that 1 in every 88 children in the USA has autism. That is a large jump from their previous estimate of 1 in 110. As in the past with these numbers, we can’t be sure how much of this increase is due to a true rise in incidence versus better detection, awareness or access to services. Then there was the recent study of children in S Korea that put the incidence at 1 in 38! This situation will certainly become even more complicated if the changes in the diagnostic criteria proposed for the 2013 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, or DSM-5 are approved. These changes are being hotly debated (see this morning’s SFARI report for a good summary of the controversy), and changing the rules for diagnosis will make comparisons with the rates from previous years very shaky. These and other issues will be discussed at a public forum at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on May 5 at 1 pm – free to the public.

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2 Responses to Autism rates

  1. blackheart says:

    Is there any hope of developing specific physiological markers that may help to unravel this complex question on prevalence ?

    • phpatterson says:

      You are spot-on Blackheart – this is precisely what is needed. To get a firm handle on prevalence we must have objective, quantifiable, easily assayable biomarkers. Such molecular signals would also enable us to reliably evaluate novel therapies, and would probably also yield valuable information on the various subtypes that make up autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One approach is to look for a molecules in urine, and Tony Persico’s group in Rome published an intriguing finding of a bacterial metabolite that is highly enriched in the urine of young girls with autism. Other research groups, including our own, are looking for ASD biomarkers in serum. Another way to go would be imaging the brain with MRI, but that would be much too expensive to carry out on a large scale.

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