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No Link Between Childhood Infections, Autism
Date:5/7/2010

children affected by the disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite significant effort, the causes of autism remain unclear, although it's believed both genetic and environmental factors contribute, said Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, director of medical research at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

Previous research has suggested that children with autism are more likely to have immune system abnormalities, leading some to theorize that autism might be triggered by infections, Zimmerman said.

Some parents of children with autism have also reported that their children have more frequent infections. While a few studies have shown children with autism may suffer slightly more ear and respiratory infections compared to normally developing children, others found no such connection, Atladottir said.

In addition, there are anecdotal reports of children developing autism after serious infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, Zimmerman said.

In the study, researchers searched for any connection between those particular illnesses, as well as a host of others, including bacterial, viral and fungal infections, and respiratory illnesses, herpes virus and urinary tract infections, specifically. They came up empty handed.

"Yes, there is an increased rate of hospitalization preceding the diagnosis of autism, but it doesn't support a causal relationship between autism and infections," Zimmerman said.

There is a wide range of reasons why children with autism may be more likely to be hospitalized for an illness, the study authors said. For example, autistic children could be more prone to physical illnesses, either due to autism or other medical conditions.

Parents of children with autism frequently report that their children are prone to gastrointestinal problems, such as chronic diarrhea and constipation. Some es
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