Autism Research and Treatment Center, AL-Amodi Autism Research Chair, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
Autism may involve an autoimmune pathogenesis. Immunotherapy may have a role in autistic children who have brain auto-antibodies.
This study aimed to investigate the frequency of serum antineuronal auto-antibodies, as indicators of the presence of autoimmunity to brain, in a group of autistic children. We are the first to measure the relationship between these antibodies and the degree of the severity of autism.
Serum antineuronal antibodies were measured, by indirect immunofluorescence technique, in 80 autistic children, aged between 6 and 12 years, in comparison to 80 healthy-matched children. The severity of autism was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale.
Autistic children had significantly higher percent positivity of serum antineuronal antibodies (62.5%) than healthy controls (5%), P<0.001. The frequency of the positivity of serum antineuronal antibodies was significantly higher in children with severe autism (87.5%) than children with mild to moderate autism (25%), P<0.001. Similarly, the frequency of the positivity of these antibodies was significantly higher in female children with autism (90%) than male autistic children (53.3%), P=0.001.
Serum antineuronal antibodies were found in a subgroup of autistic children and they were significantly correlated to the severity of autism. Thus, autism may be, in part, one of the pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. Further wide-scale studies are warranted to shed light on the etiopathogenic role of antineuronal antibodies in autism. The role of immunotherapy in autistic patients, who are seropositive for antineuronal antibodies, should also be studied.