September 17 (WNN)—— A study published in the journal “Science Advances” found that severe infections during infancy seem to increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder in boys.
They said the infections that made these children sick include influenza, severe skin infections, fungal lung infections, bacterial food poisoning, whooping cough, and hand, foot and mouth disease.
The data shows that of the more than 3.6 million children included in the analysis, nearly 23,000 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder—approximately 4,400 women and 18,200 men.
Researchers say boys who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder between 18 months and 4 years old have a higher prevalence of serious infections requiring hospitalization.
Although the study did not prove that these diseases cause autism, the researchers said that their findings support previous studies that showed that severe infections and their effects on children’s immune systems increase the risk of neurological diseases.
According to researchers, many of these infections can be prevented by vaccination.
“Our research results strongly suggest that parents should vaccinate their children to avoid serious infections, which may increase the likelihood of autism and even other mental illnesses,” study co-author Alcino J. Silva told in an email WNN.
Silva, professor of neurobiology, psychiatry, and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “This is preventable, and we should do everything we can to resist the movement of misinformation that has led to a comeback of childhood diseases thought to have been eliminated. .”.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one-fifth of children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a series of neurodevelopmental conditions that affect learning and behavior.
According to Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the causes of these diseases are not yet known, and different children may have different causes.
Some studies have shown that the risk of autism spectrum disorder is transmitted within the family, while other studies have pointed to environmental reasons, such as exposure to toxic chemicals.
However, Silva is not the first study to link childhood infections with increased risk of mental and behavioral health disorders.
Previous studies have shown that the virus transmitted from mother to child before birth may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia in the future.
According to Dr. Alice Kau, program director of the Institute’s Intellectual and Developmental Disorders Department, researchers at the Shriver Institute have explored “the role of maternal inflammation during pregnancy in the development of neurodevelopmental disorders.”
She said this inflammation is caused by infections that make the mother sick, although those infections that affect the child during infancy are “considered as a potential risk for autism spectrum disorder.”
In this study, Silva and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of more than 3.6 million children, and compared children with and without autism spectrum disorder who had severe infections that required hospitalization during childhood. Morbidity.
In addition, they used mice injected with a chemical to simulate viral infections in infants, and compared their adult social skills with mice that were not injected with the chemical.
The researchers said that in addition to the higher prevalence of severe infections in male children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, mice infected during infancy are less likely to show “normal” compared to uninfected mice. Social interaction” behavior.
“Infection activates mechanisms in the brain that interact with genetic changes or mutations that predispose children to autism,” Silva said.
“These mutations may not cause autism by themselves, but together with strong infections that require medical care, they may increase the likelihood of autism,” he said.