A New York times piece this past week discusses the possibility of continuous inflammation–the result of an unbalanced aggressive immune function – as a potential contributor or even cause for autism in newborns. In fact, as the article points out, a Danish study spanning 20 years shows a connection between pregnant mothers treated for a viral infection such as flu, and higher risk for autism. “Hospitalization for a viral infection, like the flu, during the first trimester of pregnancy triples the odds. Bacterial infection, including of the urinary tract, during the second trimester increases chances by 40 percent,” says the article.
But it’s not the disease–virus or bacteria cells– itself that is theorized to be linked to autism. Rather, the aggressive and lingering immune response to a viral pathogen is the potential problem. Might a more controlled immune reaction–one where immune cells do their job then go away when it’s done–make a difference? Hopefully, more research can provide answers.