Cincinnati children's study links autism and immunologic disorders


SAN FRANCISCO -- A new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study provides further evidence of a link between autism and immunologic disorders, including allergy. The study, although preliminary, indicates that children with autism may have an increased prevalence of allergic disorders, particularly of the gastrointestinal system.

The researchers examined data from the National Health Interview Survey, a national Census Bureau survey of approximately 55,000 households. Members of households who said children in that household had autism were more likely to report digestive and food allergies than members of households who said children in their households were otherwise healthy.

The study will be presented May 1 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco.

Of those surveyed, 152 identified children as having autism. There was also a trend toward a positive association of autism and both respiratory and skin allergies, but the trend did not reach statistical significance, according to Thomas Webb, MD, a physician in the division of developmental disabilities at Cincinnati Children's and the study's lead author. Children with autism were less likely to be reported to have a history of asthma compared to otherwise healthy children.

"This finding runs counter to trends in the general population, in which asthma rates are higher than digestive and food allergies," says Dr. Webb. "While there are few studies on this, some basic science research indicates that children with autism may have differences in the receptors on immune cells that respond to allergic stimuli. Further investigation into the link with allergic diseases is warranted."

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism affects the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. It is estimated that autism affects one in 250-400 children.

Cincinnati Children's is a national leader in immunologic research. Clinical and basic science studies are underway investigating the role of the immune system in autism. These studies are designed to examine whether autism may be an autoimmune disorder or an allergic disorder, or if certain genes might confer susceptibility to both autism and immune system disorders.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.