A massive study conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, as well as the Norwegian National Institute of Public Health, has found that inflammation during pregnancy is linked to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In past studies, the researchers had linked a higher risk of ASD with prenatal exposure to influenza infection, herpes virus type two infection, and maternal fever.
Now, in their latest study, the researchers specifically analyzed sixty immune response biomarkers. These biomarkers included cytokines as well as growth factors.
Blood samples were collected from over nine hundred and fifty children during pregnancy. Then a second blood sample was collected from the same children via umbilical cord at birth.
About half of these children were later diagnosed with ASD, and the researchers could link the risk of ASD to particular groups of inflammation-related molecules.
Interestingly, some different molecule groupings were observed in girls versus boys. Still, four molecules involved in fetal brain development, and linked to the risk of ASD, were observed in both girls and boys.
Xiaoyu Che, the study’s first author, said, “Our research suggests a period of vulnerability during gestation when inflammation can interfere with central nervous system development.”
These findings reinforce the recent growing evidence that fetal exposure to inflammation results in a higher risk of ASD.
This awareness could be outcome-changing and eventually pave the way for an ASD screening test at birth.