Neonatal Jaundice Linked to Autism

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 by
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many parents and clinicians are looking for clues often of a wild and speculative format to explain why their child may have developed autism, for whilst there appear to be a number of genes involved in autism, the genetic cause has yet to be convincingly supported, suggesting that there remains an environmental factor that influences an epigentic change that allows for relevant genes to be expressed.

A paper published in the journal Pediatrics[1] suggests a possible relationship between a clinically recognised early life condition and the development of ASD suggesting that this sensitive window – if exposed to the described neurological insult can act as an epigenetic activator with long term consequences.  In addition to the local neurological interaction, this study also pulled a large amount of data from Danish birth records and found two risk mitigators:

If the mother was primiparous (a woman who has given birth only once) and the birth dates were in between April and September – the risk of autism declined dramatically.

So what did they find: The researchers uncovered a complex interplay between endogenous liver function, frequency of pregnancy and time of conception/birth.

This paper looked at Jaundiced newborns  (caused by hyperbilirubinemia – increased levels of bilirubin in the blood) and found they had a remarkably close to 90% higher likelihood of subsequently having any psychological developmental disorder compared with comparable neonates without jaundice (HR 1.87, 95% CI 1.58 to 2.21, P=0.001)

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