Finding could lead to new avenues of treatment for the disorder, study suggests
MONDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may show improvements in behavior when they have a fever, a small study suggests.
This is the first study to investigate a relationship between fever and behavior change in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the researchers said.
"I think this study means there is hope, because it means that the basic networks in the brain in autism appear to be intact," said senior investigator Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
According to the authors, ASD includes autism, autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger's syndrome.
The new study adds to a growing body of research that suggests that the problems children with ASD have with behavior, language skills and social skills result from poor connections between synapses in the brain. The question, Zimmerman said, is which synapses are involved and how to stimulate them to function.
Zimmerman said the heat of a fever might stimulate changes at the cellular level. Fever's impact on the hormonal and immune systems might also be responsible for the perceived changes in the children. The changes observed in the study were not permanent, however, and disappeared within a week of the fever's end, the researchers noted.
Zimmerman also noted that the effect seems limited to viral fevers, such as flu-related fever, rather than other illnesses.
"This is a very interesting study," said Dr. Annette Estes, associate director of the University of Washington Autism Center, who interpreted the study's results in the context of a new line of research that is linking autism to immune system response and inflammation.
"This is a novel use of a child who is ill w
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