Link between autism, infections in pregnancy explored

Ultrasound image of fetus at four months gestation.

(CNN) — If a mother has an infection or the flu during pregnancy, can it raise the risk of autism for her child? A new study out of Denmark suggests that the answer is “probably not” and “maybe” and that the issue definitely needs more study.

“Overall, we found little evidence that various types of mild common infectious diseases or febrile episodes during pregnancy were associated with ASD/infantile autism (autism spectrum disorders),” the study authors wrote.

But they also say their data suggest there are three scenarios in which there might be an increased risk of the child developing autism. If the mother had the flu, there was “a two-fold increased risk of infantile autism; if the mom had “prolonged episodes of fever” (lasting a week or more), the risk goes up threefold; “and use of various antibiotics during pregnancy were potential risk factors for ASD/infantile autism.”

But the study authors also concede that the results may be skewed by multiple testing, contributing to the potential for “chance findings.”

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