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No Association Found Between Flu During Pregnancy And Autism Risk In Children

1 December 2016, 10:38 am EST By Livia Rusu Tech Times
A new study suggests that there is no connection between mothers being infected with the influenza virus during pregnancy and an increased risk of the child to suffer from ASD. The research dismisses one of the myths surrounding this spectrum of diseases.   ( Stephen Morton | Getty Images )

There is no association between a mother having flu anytime during her pregnancy and an increased risk of giving birth to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This was the finding of a recent study that analyzed more than 196,000 children born between 2000 and 2010.

The research, published in the online journal JAMA Pediatrics, Nov. 28, was conducted by Ousseny Zerbo, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, and co-authors.

Influenza Virus In Pregnant Women And ASD In Children

The study analyzed 196,929 children born at the gestational age of at least 24 weeks. Among the group, 1,400 mothers (0.7 percent) were diagnosed with the influenza virus and 45,231 mothers (23 percent) were vaccinated against the virus while pregnant. The number of children diagnosed with ASD was 3,101, which is 1.6 percent of the total number of children.

With these results, the authors of the study suggest that there is no connection between having the flu in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and ASD risk.

However, the authors suggested that maternal vaccination in the first trimester of the pregnancy could increase the risk of having a child who suffers from ASD, although the association between the two may be a matter of chance, as the difference was not statistically significant.

The research has various limitations and it cannot establish causality between the influenza virus and ASD. One of these limitations is the ASD status was not established by standardized clinical assessment, but by medical records. Consequently, there could be mitigating factors that contributed to these results.

"While we do not advocate changes in vaccine policy or practice, we believe that additional studies are warranted to further evaluate any potential associations between first-trimester maternal influenza vaccination and autism," notes the study.

ASD Development - Heath Connections

Scientific research has been focused on identifying potential connections between children born with ASD and their mothers' health issues. One study found a link between mothers who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and this spectrum of diseases.

The PCOS was found to affect one in 10 women, and it is described as an abnormally high level of androgen in the ovaries that can turn into cysts. While the increased risk was modest, the research does encourage testing children for ASD earlier.

Another connection that was made between the risks of ASD development in children and their mothers' behavior during pregnancy concerns exposure to ultrasounds in the first trimester of pregnancy. The research analyzed genetic vulnerabilities and outside stressors.

Research also suggests that it is more likely for children to suffer from ASD when they already have a sibling who has a disease from this spectrum.

ASD is complicated to identify as it takes time and a series of long observational and contextual tests, unlike other disorders which can be easily spotted through blood sample analysis or generic lab tests. One of the issues in the diagnosis of children who suffer from ASD is being mistakenly diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD instead, as some of the symptoms are similar.

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