Researchers have found that children with autism and a class of genetic disorders are exposed to diagnostic ultrasound during their first trimester in the womb, the procedure likely leads to an increase in the condition's severity.

In a study published in the journal Autism Research, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine, University of Washington Bothell and the Seattle Children's Research Institute have explored how symptoms in autistic children varied widely and found that children diagnosed with the condition are likely to experience increased severity of symptoms if they have gene variations that have been associated with autism.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), diagnostic ultrasounds should only be carried out if medically necessary.

Based on the researchers' data, however, getting an ultrasound in the second and third trimester of a pregnancy has no effect on how severe autism symptoms will be for an affected individual.

"I believe the implications of our results are to bolster the FDA guidelines," said Pierre D. Mourad, the study's corresponding author.

The study involved 2,644 families across 12 research sites in the U.S. part of the Simons Simplex Collection autism genetic repository, a database receiving funding support from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

Instead of contributing to zeroing in on what causes autism, the researchers opted to tackle why kids with autism greatly differ from one another, trying to shed light on some of the factors that can result in a child having better outcomes.

According to Sara Webb, the study's lead author, they approached the study by following a three-part model that looked at genetic vulnerabilities, outside stressors and outside stressors that impinged on a child at certain times.

Some of the researchers worked on an earlier study that showed exposing pregnant mice to ultrasound resulted in autism-like symptoms for their offspring. The researchers built upon these results to help give the current study focus.

According to a different study carried out by Kaiser Permanente, children are likelier to develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when they have an older sibling with the condition. Specifically, younger siblings are 11.3 percent risk of being likely diagnosed with ASD if they have an older sibling with the condition, compared to the 0.92 percent risk that children with older siblings without ASD have.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and restricted and repetitive behavior. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the condition manifests itself in one out of every 68 children.

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