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Autism Symptom Severity and Mothers’ Immune Response

By Chelsea Toledo, M.A. on December 22, 2017


Background: What role the non-genetic factors play towards development of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a major concernSeveral recent studies have suggested a link between illness or infection during pregnancy and the likelihood that the resulting child have ASD. However, few have established a link between mothers’ history of immune activity and the severity of social differences in the children who go on to receive a diagnosis.


What’s New: A recent retrospective study explored that potential link – comparing the severity of social symptoms in 220 children with ASD against their mothers’ histories of immune activity while pregnant. The researchers administered the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic (ADOS-G) to the children, and had their caregivers complete the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) to assess the severity of impairments in the following five areas: awareness, cognition, communication, motivation, and mannerisms. Finally, primary caregivers completed family medical histories as part of the study.


The researchers found:


  • SRS scores were higher (indicating greater severity of social symptoms) in children whose mothers had a history of asthma and allergies.
  • Symptoms were most severe in the areas of cognition and mannerisms for these children.
  • Autoimmune conditions among mothers did not affect autism symptoms in children.


Why it’s important: This is the first study to correlate the severity of ASD social symptoms with maternal immune activity. Future studies following mothers and children over time could further probe this link to shed light on possible interventions.

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