Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autoimmune Diseases Linked to Autism
Posted Feb 22 2010 6:00am
A new study says that children of mothers who have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes and celiac disease have a three times higher risk or Autism than the general population.
The study included data on 3,325 Danish children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who were born in Denmark from 1993 to 2004. Of these, 1,089 were diagnosed with infantile autism.
Dr. William W. Eaton, chairman of the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and his team found that many of these children also mothers with a family history of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases, such as RA develop when antibodies that normally fight infectious organisms instead attack the body itself.
In addition, the team found that children with a family history of type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of infantile autism.
Previous studies have found a connection between autism and a maternal history of type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. However, this is the first study to document a link between autism and celiac disease, according to the study’s authors.
The researchers say their study leaves many questions unanswered. But they say it’s possible babies are affected by their mother’s antibodies while in the womb. Their mother’s disease also may create an abnormal environment.
Autism affects roughly 1 in 150 children by age 8. The symptoms include impaired communication and socializing skills, rigid routines and repetitive behaviors. Known risk factors include family history, fathers older than 40, being male, and diseases such as tuberous sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy and Fragile X syndrome.
The results of the study were published in the online journal Pediatrics.