Autism Risk Doubles For Babies Born To Mothers With Herpes

Posted: Feb 23 2017, 7:00am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Autism Risk Doubles for Babies Born to Mothers with Herpes
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  • Autism risk linked to herpes infection during pregnancy

New study reveals genital herpes in pregnant women has links to autism

A study revealed that women with genital herpes in pregnancy have twice the risk of giving birth to a child that could have ASD, autism spectrum disorder in the later age.

The study involved scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

This is the first study showing evidence of herpes’ link with autism. The study results were published in mSphere a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Mother’s immune system response to HSV-2 damages the nervous system of the child creating a risk of autism, said lead author Milada Mahic, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Center for Infection and Immunity and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Scientists don’t think that the risk of autism is due to fetus infection; instead it’s due to mother’s infection close to the womb.

According to a research, 1 in 5 women carry HSV-2 that is contagious and its lifelong infection that develops due to sex. Initially, the virus lives in nerve cells and remains inactive, but it gets functional when the child grows up.

The study is based on pathogens explored by scientists, and the 5 pathogens include ToRCH agents -- Toxo plasma gondii, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2 that can cause miscarriage or birth defects.

The research team took the blood report of 412 mothers of kids with ASD, and 463 mothers of kids without ASD having record in the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study overseen by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Two types of samples were taken, including sample from 18 week pregnant women and at the time of birth, and studied the levels of antibodies in the samples.

The team detected high level of antibodies to HSV-2 that causes ASD. But, the study also found that ASD risk could develop in males only, and less females are at risk. But,the study is yet weak to tell that the ASD is sex specific.

More study is required, as in several cases the cause of ASD is not known, said senior author W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity.

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