Study Links Fever During Pregnancy With Autism
Credit: WikiCommons

New investigation provides intriguing clues about the relationship between fever during pregnancy and babies born with autism.

A recent study led by scientists at the Center of Investigation and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, demonstrated that fever is a detonant for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr. Mandy Hornig, lead researcher on the study, said that fever (a common condition during pregnancy) is how the body responds to a wide range of infections.

The extensive study, published June 13th in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, also found that even one episode of high fever during the second trimester might increase chances of autism by 40%. Women who suffered three or more fevers after 12 weeks of gestation increase this chance threefold.
Credit: WikiCommons

Hornig warned that this only proves that there is a connection between fever and higher risks of developing ASD. Yet, there’s not enough evidence to prove that this symptom directly causes autism. There might be other conditions that could predispose the infant to develop autism.

She also added that the fever effect could be related to an infection, which could trigger the bodily response. “There is something in the mother’s immune response that may increase the risk for the infant, but it’s not in every mother,” Hornig said. “We don’t think this is a pathway for autism. We don’t think it’s the only way autism is triggered in children.”

Hornig and colleagues collected data from 95,754 Norwegian children born from 1999 to 2009. Among these, 15,700 were born to mothers who experienced at least one fever during their pregnancies. From these kids, 583 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers also focused on the medications mothers took to treat fever episodes. Surprisingly, acetaminophen (Tylenol) — the most common drug used to reduce fever — had no significant impact. Mothers who took Ibuprofen didn’t report any cases of autism in their infants. Still, there’s not enough evidence to support this theory.

Hornig also pointed out that additional research is necessary to identify the mechanism and correctly understand how inflammation relates to autism spectrum disorder.

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