“A very small percentage of women had that amount of exposure, so the statistical significance of that association was very marginal,” Croen said.
Aware of a possible association between infertility, fertility treatments, and autism, Croen said she and others are preparing a paper that examines specific medications women take when undergoing fertility treatments and the risk of autism.
Evidence has linked various types of maternal immune activation and dysregulation to behavioral disorders, including ASD.
Croen and colleagues5 published a paper on maternal autoimmune diseases, asthma, and allergies. “We found a significant association between maternal asthma and allergy during pregnancy and autism in their kids,” she said. “Also, one of the autoimmune diseases—psoriasis—was significantly associated with a modestly increased risk for autism.”
Croen is also the principal investigator of the Early Markers for Autism (EMA) study, designed to evaluate biological markers of susceptibility and exposure in archived maternal mid-pregnancy and neonatal blood specimens from the same mother-baby pairs.
In the past few years, researchers have used those blood samples to research possible immunological connections for ASD.6,7
Much of the future of research into autism and ASD, Croen said, depends on funding through public-private partnerships and donations from financial “angels” and referrals from the medical community.
“For success of these studies,” she said, “it is important that psychiatrists and other physicians encourage patients and families to participate.”