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Fever During Pregnancy May Raise Odds for Autism in Offspring
Date:5/30/2012

o, a postdoctoral researcher with Kaiser Permanente's Northern California Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., said in a university news release. Zerbo was a doctoral candidate with UC Davis when the study was conducted. "We recommend that pregnant women who develop fever take anti-[fever] medications and seek medical attention if their fever persists."

The findings are culled from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study. This is the same dataset that recently led to a report that moms who are obese or have diabetes may be at higher risk for having children with autism. The common denominator between diabetes, obesity and fever is inflammation.

"This study puts the spotlight on inflammatory factors as a possible role in autism," said Dr. Y. Jane Tavyev, director of pediatric neurology at pediatric services at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. But, she added, "I don't think that this should make people panic about getting sick during pregnancy. Mounting a fever is part of the body's immune response to help kill bacteria and viruses."

Dr. Daniel Coury, a professor of clinical pediatrics and psychiatry at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, urges caution in interpreting the new findings. "It is an association, and doesn't mean that maternal fever causes autism, just that we see these two occurring together more frequently than other things."

Alycia Halladay, director of research for environmental sciences at Autism Speaks, said that "this new report from the CHARGE study adds another piece to the puzzle around environmental risk factors in the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Further studies are needed to interpret how these many risk factors are related to each other and to an autism spectrum dissected diagnosis. This includes how genes interact with these risk factors, and whether some of the risk factors act together to modify risk."

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