An article published August 25th in The New York Times reports that at least one-third of autism cases may be due to inflammatory disease that begins in the womb. The evidence is based on a 20-year population-wide study from Denmark that found that the odds of having an autistic child tripled for mothers who were hospitalized for viral infections during the first trimester of their pregnancy. For mothers who were hospitalized with bacterial infections during the second trimester, their odds were even higher (40 percent).
The article cites the pioneering work of Paul H. Patterson, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences at the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology. In his research, Dr. Patterson found evidence that maternal infection increases the likelihood of autism and other brain and behavior disorders in the offspring of pregnant mice.
Dr. Patterson, a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee, is the author of the book Infectious Behavior: Brain-Immune Connections in Autism, Schizophrenia, and Depression, which was written for the general public.