Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Autism 5 Times More Common Among Low Birth Weight Babies: Part 2

Autism 5 times more common among low birth weight babies

By Cory Hatch
Could better prenatal care reduce autism's prevalence?
The research confirms what physicians have known about premature birth and autism, said Dr. Craig Erickson, chief of the Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center at Indiana University School of Medicine. Autism can likely develop when premature birth combines with other factors such as environment and genetic predisposition, he said.

"It's not surprising that autism would be a risk factor," he said. "The nice thing about this study is that they had a long follow-up period. By [21 years of age] you really know if people have autism or not."

Next, researchers hope to compare brain images of those low birth weight babies in the study. Head ultrasounds are now routine for premature babies, Pinto-Martin said. "The first thing we're doing is to go back and look at the rate of brain injury and brain hemorrhage in the entire cohort," she said.

The research suggests a need not only for better prenatal care to reduce the number of premature babies, but also a need for early diagnosis and intervention for people with autism. "Some of these young adults thanked us when we gave them the diagnosis," Pinto-Martin said. "They said, 'I always felt odd and I never knew why.' That was very moving for us."

The idea that vaccines cause autism has received yet another blow, with a new article in the British Journal of Medicine declaring the 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield, which originally found an autism-vaccine link, an "elaborate fraud." The article is the latest criticism of a theory that has been widely discredited. But if vaccines are off the table, what does cause autism?

While scientists are still investigating the issue, they say the disorder likely has a number of causes involving both our genes and our environment, or some combination of the two. For instance, people may have underlying genetic susceptibilities to autism that are triggered by something they encounter in the environment.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that autism, which is characterized by problems interacting and communicating with others, is not a single disorder, but a range of disorders that may have various causes. [See a time line of events: Vaccines and Autism: How the Truth Unfolded]

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Come back tomorrow and read about the 5 things that may cause austism.


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