More evidence linking prenatal factors with autism risk

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.

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3 Responses to More evidence linking prenatal factors with autism risk

  1. Carolyn Patterson says:

    Is there information on the number of in vitro fertilization/ISI children born over the past 10 years? Is it possible to track all children conceived with these methods, and/or all methods of artificial insemination? It would be valuable to have some hard numbers, even though it “seems” like there are lots more children being born with these methods.

  2. Brielle says:

    Regarding the Stokes et al. in vitro fertilization research out of Australia, it is interesting that they conclude that increased ASD diagnosis “may be due to manipulation of gametes prior to implantation”.

    I wonder if they would consider an alternative hypothesis– that the mother’s body is not conducive to pregnancy (hence IVF), and that whatever is inhibiting a normal pregnancy is perturbing fetal development. In keeping with the overall theme of this blog, let’s say that the mother has an inflammatory condition (that is likely undiagnosed) and that this condition inhibits implantation and further embryonic growth, resulting in her attempt at IVF. If this were the case, then these women are carrying a fetus in an inflammatory environment which may result in an increase in ASD diagnosis in the children.

    IVF is typically a last ditch effort to conceive (hormone therapy, etc. would come first). When comparing IVF to other techniques you must consider that most women who are attempting IVF have tried all of the other techniques. Therefore, you might say that women who are attempting IVF have the least hospitable environment for pregnancy. It is important to keep this in mind when comparing patient/child outcomes of assisted fertility treatments.

    Health status, inflammatory markers, and recording the number of assisted fertility treatments the mother has attempted are important factors to consider before concluding that there is a problem with “manipulating gametes”.

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