Study Finds Autism Risk May be Linked to Flu or Fever During Pregnancy.
In a Danish study reported in Pediatrics, researchers found there was an increased risk of a child acquiring an autism spectrum disorder if the mother experienced a week long fever or the flu during her pregnancy. Though U.S. health officials are wary about the results and state that the results are "exploratory" and do not identify specific causes, the study bears looking into.
According to researcher Hjordis Osk Atadottir, MD, PhD of Denmark's University of Aarhus, the findings "are interesting for research purposes, but they should not alarm women who are pregnant." Osk Atadottir added, "It needs to be emphasized that around 98% of the women in this study who experienced influenza or fever or took antibiotics during pregnancy did not have children with autism."
Analyzing data culled from 97,000 mothers of children born from 1997 through 2003, researchers discovered no association between mothers who noted common respiratory or sinus infections, colds, and urinary tract or genital infections while they were pregnant, and any autism spectrum disorder in their children.These conditions are often frequently contracted by pregnant women, so this was a positive finding.
When it came to flu-like and fever conditions, the results were not as positive. For women who were pregnant and who contracted the flu, there was a twofold increase in that woman's child being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder before three years-of-age. And if a woman noted having a fever lasting for longer than a week, she had a threefold increased risk of the child's being diagnosed with a form of autism.
There was also a small increased risk of autism after the mother's use of various antibiotics during pregnancy; but this remains a diffuse finding because the research did not identify the conditions for which the antibiotics were prescribed. Despite this combination of increases, researchers felt that the overall risk of a child's developing autism remained comparatively low based upon these disease entities.
Irva Hertz-Picciotto is an autism researcher and professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute. Though she was not involved in the study, she deemed it "noteworthy," because of the population size and the time frame for the interviews of the mothers who were sampled during and shortly after pregnancy. Because the mothers did not know what their child's outcome would eventually be, their responses tended to eliminate "recall bias."Continued on the next page