Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Maternal infection exacerbates genes' effect on autism

Children with too many or too few copies of certain genes are more likely to have autism, as are children born to women who battled a severe infection while pregnant. These seemingly disparate risk factors work together to worsen autism symptoms, suggests a new study1. The study, published 27 January in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, is one of the first to look at the combined effects of genetic and environmental risk factors for autism. "The interactions between genetics and exposure in the intrauterine environment sort of bump up the symptoms," says lead researcher Raphael Bernier, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington in Seattle. Epidemiological studies indicate that having a serious infection while pregnant raises the risk of having a child with autism.

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