Pregnancy infection may lead to autism and depression in kids

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Pregnant Woman
Pregnant Woman. Image: g-stockstudio/Getty Images

According to a recent study, there is an elevated risk for autism, depression and suicide in children, whose mothers were hospitalized during pregnancy due to infections.

Earlier research has indicated that infections caused by specific pathogens, such as cytomegalovirus and the herpes virus, can cause serious fetal brain injury, abnormal brain development and an even increased risk for certain psychiatric disorders.

The researchers studied the hospital records of nearly 1.8 million people, born in Sweden (1973 -2014), from birth to age 41. Those people whose mothers had been hospitalized for any infection during pregnancy had a 79% higher risk of being diagnosed with autism while a 24% increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. No increased risk was detected for two other disorders like psychosis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

The study was performed by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, and the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, co-led by Kristina Adams Waldorf, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UW School of Medicine, and Verena Sengpiel, an associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy.

“It is unclear how an infection by a microbe that does not directly attack the fetal brain could nevertheless affect its development,” said lead author Benjamin al-Haddad, a pediatric resident at the UW School of Medicine.

“Research has shown that exposure to inflammatory proteins released by the mother’s immune system to fight off infection may affect gene expression in fetal brain cells.
Other research suggests that inflammation may increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, by the placenta, which may alter fetal brain development”, he added.

“Parts of the fetal brain are exquisitely vulnerable to damage from infection and inflammation, especially areas involving social and emotional function. I think we need to take a broader view of how infection and inflammation can harm the fetal brain, beyond the effects of direct infection of the brain, in the meantime, we should aggressively act to prevent and treat infections during pregnancy when we can”, Kristina Adams Waldorf said.

Waldorf said women should be more concerned about vaccines during pregnancy especially influenza vaccine because women are not only putting themselves at risk for serious and even fatal infections, but they may be putting their infants at risk for neuropsychiatric disorders later in life.

The researchers are hopeful that these findings would be fruitful for them for future research, would also make aware pregnant women to take the influenza vaccine to prevent their child from fatal diseases.

Published Researchhttps://ja.ma/2F3gqCu

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