MONDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Newborn babies who have jaundice may be at higher risk of developing autism later on, new research suggests, but other experts said far more research needs to be done before a cause-and-effect relationship is proven.
Researchers in Denmark analyzed information from national registries that included all Danish children born between 1994 and 2004, nearly 734,000 children.
Babies who developed serious jaundice in the days after birth were 67 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism later on. Babies with jaundice were also more likely to develop other types of "psychological development" delays, according to the study.
When the statistics were broken down further, the researchers found the heightened autism risk only among jaundiced children born in the fall and winter (between October and March) or whose mothers had given birth before. Those children had a two to three times greater chance of developing autism.
"It's an interesting finding that should be followed up with more mechanistic studies," said Alycia Halladay, director of research for environmental sciences at Autism Speaks. Halladay was not involved with the study.
There was no apparent association between jaundice and autism in first-born children or those born in the spring and summer (between April and September), according to the study, which was published online Oct. 11 in Pediatrics and will appear in the November print issue of the journal.
The study authors said they compensated for factors such as birth weight that could affect jaundice risk. Preterm infants are at higher risk of jaundice.
Jaundice is the most common condition in newborns requiring medical attention or readmission to the hospital, according to background information in the study.
It occurs when bilirubin, a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells
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