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Very Premature Babies Show Raised Risk for Autism
Date:4/2/2008

Second study finds having autistic child shrinks family income by 14%

WEDNESDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Two new studies shed additional light on two different aspects of autism: One tried to pinpoint a risk factor for development of the disorder, while the other looked at the financial toll that having an autistic child takes on a family.

Both studies were expected to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics and were released early in honor of World Autism Day on April 2.

The first looked for early autistic behaviors, though not specifically for a diagnosis of autism, in premature infants who were born at a very low birth weight -- about 3.3 pounds -- and found that several factors associated with these early births were linked to a positive result on an autism screening test.

"The bottom line is that there appears to be a high prevalence of positive screening for autism in survivors of extreme preterm birth and ongoing follow-up is needed to understand if this initial positive screen is transient or persistent," said study author Catherine Limperopoulos, the Canada Research Chair in Brain and Development and an assistant professor in the department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal.

"There is a suggestion [from this study] that preterm infants may be at risk for developing autism, but this is really a preliminary finding that needs to be replicated in a large, prospective study," said Andy Shih, vice president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, in New York City.

Limperopoulos and her colleagues studied 91 babies who weighed less than 3 pounds at birth. MRIs were done on these infants around the time they were born. The researchers collected information on the child's health and demographic information, as well as information on their prenatal environment.

At around 22 months, the researchers conducted an autism screening test, called
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