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ACR: Maternal Lupus Linked to Autism in Offspring

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose mothers have lupus are at higher risk of being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and being diagnosed at an earlier age, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, held from Oct. 25 to 30 in San Diego.

Noting that autoantibodies and cytokines produced in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have been shown to alter fetal brain development and behavior in animals, Evelyne Vinet, M.D., from McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues compared the risk of ASD in 719 children of 509 women with SLE and 8,493 children from 5,824 matched control women.

The researchers found that, after a mean follow-up of 9.1 years and controlling for multiple variables, the risk of ASD was significantly higher among children born to women with SLE (1.4 versus 0.6 percent; hazard ratio, 2.31). ASD was also diagnosed at a younger age in children whose mothers had SLE (3.8 versus 5.7 years). In utero exposure to medication was rare among ASD cases.

"The findings from this study suggest that, although the absolute risk is relatively small, when compared to children from the general population, children born to women with lupus have a two-fold increased risk of ASD," Vinet said in a statement. "Hopefully, this study will prompt further research on the potential role of lupus-related autoantibodies, such as N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antibodies, in ASD."

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