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Could stress of immigration cause autism?


Children born to certain groups of immigrants have an increased risk of developing autism. A new study from Karolinska Institutet reviewed the health records of all children in Stockholm County from 2001 through 2007. There results bring the question of the heredity of a particular kind of autism to the fore.

“This is an interesting discovery, in which we can see strong links between a certain kind of autism and the time of the mother’s immigration to Sweden,” says principal investigator Cecilia Magnusson, Associate Professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet. “The study is important, as it shows that autism isn’t governed only by genetic causes but by environmental factors too.”

The study showed that children of immigrant parents, particularly from countries of low development, are likely to develop autism with intellectual disability. The development of the condition appears to be related to the timing of migration. For women who migrated just before or during pregnancy, their children were most at risk.

“At this junction we can but speculate about the causes, but our assumption is that environmental factors impacting on the developing fetus, such as stress, new dietary habits or infections, could lead to the development of autism with intellectual disability,” explained Magnusson.

A total of 589,114 children were included in the study, approximately 5000 had an autism diagnosis. “We know far too little about autism, but we will continue to gather data on these children to find out more about its possible causes,” said Magnusson.

Source: Karolinska Institutet, MedicalNewsToday


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