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Your Environment. Your Health.

Early Pregnancy Inflammation Could Increase Autism Risk

Alan Brown, M.D.
Columbia University
NIEHS Grant R01ES019004

Inflammation during pregnancy could be associated with an increased risk for autism, according to new research that was partially funded by the NIEHS.

The researchers looked at an inflammatory biomarker called gestational C-reactive protein (CRP) in the Finnish Maternity Cohort, which contains an archive of serum samples collected from about 810,000 pregnant women in Finland. They also used national psychiatric registries that contain virtually all treated autism cases in the population.

Analysis of CRP in archived maternal serum corresponding to 677 childhood autism cases and an equal number of matched controls, revealed that the risk of autism among children in the study was increased by 43 percent among mothers with CRP levels in the top 20th percentile, and by 80 percent for maternal CRP in the top 10th percentile. These findings could not be explained by maternal age, paternal age, gender, previous births, socioeconomic status, preterm birth, or birth weight. The researchers caution that the results should be viewed in perspective since the prevalence of inflammation during pregnancy is substantially higher than the prevalence of autism.


Citation: Brown AS, Sourander A, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, McKeague IW, Sundvall J, Surcel HM. 2013. Elevated maternal C-reactive protein and autism in a national birth cohort. Molecular Psychiatry; doi:10.1038/mp.2012.197 [Online 22 January 2013].

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