The major study of 10,000 autism cases in Denmark by Atladottir et al. firmly established the risk of maternal infection and autism in the offspring, particularly for a viral infection in the first trimester. In new work presented at the recent IMFAR meeting in Tornonto, a study of >4,000 ASD (autism spectrum disorder) cases in Sweden confirms this risk, although no information was provided as to the trimester or pathogen specificity.
Another presentation , from Australia, provided evidence that certain assisted reproductive techniques, specifically in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection increase risk (2-fold) for autism in the offspring, while hormonal or medical techniques do not. Could this effect contribute to the striking rise in ASD diagnosis seen in the last 10 ten years?
Abdallah and colleagues in Denmark reported an extension of their prior work, showing molecular irregularities in the amniotic fluid are associated with ASD risk.
Van de Water and colleagues at UC Davis reported that pregnant women who had previously given birth to a child with ASD have a pro-inflammatory cytokine profile in their serum. These women are more likely than controls to give birth to a second ASD child. Future followup of the offspring will determine if this cytokine profile can be predictive in individual cases.