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Autism May Be Linked to Mom's Autoimmune Disease
Date:7/6/2009

Possible causes of disorder should now include celiac disease, study suggests,,

MONDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Children of mothers who have autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease have up to a three times greater risk for autism, a new study finds.

Although the association between autism and a maternal history of type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis had been found in earlier research, the researchers behind the new study say that theirs is the first to find a link between autism and celiac disease. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley.

"This finding reinforces the suggestion that autoimmune processes are connected somehow with the cause of autism and autism spectrum disorder," said researcher William W. Eaton, chairman of the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. "This finding is on the pathway of finding the cause of autism."

Eaton noted that there is no clinical significance to the finding but that it could guide future research as scientists try to pin down the cause or causes of autism.

One reason autoimmune diseases might have a role in autism is genetic, Eaton said. Children who are born underweight or premature are at higher risk for autism, and both of these obstetric problems are associated with celiac disease, he added.

"There may be an overlap in the genetics of some of the autoimmune diseases and autism that would not be trivial," he said. "Autism is strongly inherited, but we don't have the faintest idea where. But this may point a flashlight to areas of the genome that connect to autism."

In addition, there might also be environmental triggers that affect the fetus, he said.

The report is published in the July 6 online edition of Pediatrics.

For the study, Eaton's team collected dat
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