Monday, October 08, 2007

Clinic Notes: Predicting Autism

We just completed a study, which found among other things, that the mother having an infection while pregnant was a statistically significant predictor of autism in male children. Now a new published study finds that there is a link between schizophrenia, autism, and flu in the mother. Previous studies have found that flu in mothers during pregnancy
increases the risk of schizophrenia 3-7 times. Schizophrenia and autism are thought to have a genetic component triggered by some pre or postnatal factor. As many as 21% of the cases of schizophrenia may be related to flu in the mother. It is not the virus itself that causes schizophrenia but the body's immune system reacting to the infection. The immune system's response to an infection at the cellular level releases proteins called cytokines. Theoretically, the fetus is affected by a cytokine called interleukin-6. If a pregnant mouse is injected with interleukin-6 her off spring display schizophrenia or autistic like behavior.

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