University of Otago researchers report children have an increased risk of developing cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia if their mother's immune system was activated as a result of infection during pregnancy.
Recent studies have reported on a link between maternal infection and subsequent higher risk of autism in offspring. A new study from ACES reports similar findings in pigs. Mother pigs who develop infection during pregnancy have a higher risk of their piglets developing antisocial problems.
Using large data sets, researchers determined children on the autism spectrum can be broken into three subgroups based upon co-occurring conditions, and those subgroups are associated with different prenatal risk factors. Infections, anti-inflammatory and other complex medications were associated with one group, while joint disorders and immune system problems were associated with another. The third subgroup was associated with overall pregnancy complications. Researchers have developed a new blood test that can for autism and prenatal risk factors for ASD.
Researchers discovered the link between autism and maternal infection does not appear to be causal. Results suggest the increased autism risks are more likely to be explained by shared familial factors including genetics or aspects of a shared environment.