“A very small percentage of women had that amount of exposure, so the statistical significance of that association was very marginal,” Croen said.
Aware of a possible association between infertility, fertility treatments, and autism, Croen said she and others are preparing a paper that examines specific medications women take when undergoing fertility treatments and the risk of autism.
Evidence has linked various types of maternal immune activation and dysregulation to behavioral disorders, including ASD.
Croen and colleagues5 published a paper on maternal autoimmune diseases, asthma, and allergies. “We found a significant association between maternal asthma and allergy during pregnancy and autism in their kids,” she said. “Also, one of the autoimmune diseases—psoriasis—was significantly associated with a modestly increased risk for autism.”
Croen is also the principal investigator of the Early Markers for Autism (EMA) study, designed to evaluate biological markers of susceptibility and exposure in archived maternal mid-pregnancy and neonatal blood specimens from the same mother-baby pairs.
In the past few years, researchers have used those blood samples to research possible immunological connections for ASD.6,7
Much of the future of research into autism and ASD, Croen said, depends on funding through public-private partnerships and donations from financial “angels” and referrals from the medical community.
“For success of these studies,” she said, “it is important that psychiatrists and other physicians encourage patients and families to participate.”
1. Hallmayer J, Cleveland S, Torres A, et al. Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68:1095-1102.
2. Ozonoff S, Young GS, Carter A, et al. Recurrence risk for autism spectrum disorders: a baby siblings research consortium study. Pediatrics. 2011 Aug 15; [Epub ahead of print].
3. Croen LA, Grether JK, Yoshida CK, et al. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and childhood autism spectrum disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68:1104-1112.
4. Croen LA, Connors SL, Matevia M, et al. Prenatal exposure to β2-adrenergic receptor agonists and risk of autism spectrum disorders. J Neurodev Disord. 2011;3:307-315.
5. Croen LA, Grether JK, Yoshida CK, et al. Maternal autoimmune diseases, asthma and allergies, and childhood autism spectrum disorders: a case-control study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159:151-157.
6. Croen LA, Goines P, Braunschweig D, et al. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and autism: maternal and infant peripheral blood levels in the Early Markers for Autism (EMA) Study. Autism Res. 2008;1:130-137.
7. Goines PE, Croen LA, Braunschweig D, et al. Increased midgestational IFN-γ, IL-4 and IL-5 in women bearing a child with autism: a case-control study. Mol Autism. 2011;2:13.