Oct. 28, 2013

Children Born to Mothers with Lupus Might be at Increased Risk of Autism

(San Diego, California) October 28, 2013 – Although the overall risk is small, children born to mothers with lupus may have a higher risk of autism spectrum disorders than children born to mothers without the disease, according to the results of a study presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Diego. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause social, behavioral and communication challenges.

Dr. Evelyne Vinet, the study’s lead author, is an assistant professor in the Department of Rheumatology at McGill University Health Center in Montreal. Using a large database of medical records of all Canadian women who have had one or more hospitalizations for childbirth after lupus diagnosis, Dr. Vinet and her team found that children born to mothers with lupus had more ASD diagnoses compared to children born to mothers without the disease (1.4 percent vs. 0.6 percent, respectively). The researchers also observed that children born to mothers with lupus were diagnosed with ASD earlier in life. This research builds on experimental studies in animals, showing that autoantibodies and cytokines (proteins and chemicals that play important roles in the immune systems of women with lupus) could alter fetal brain development and induce behavioral irregularities in offspring. 

The Lupus Foundation of America cautions that this is the first study specifically to assess the risk of ASD in children born to mothers with lupus, and more studies are needed to confirm these results. Furthermore, this study has some limitations. Relying on diagnostic codes from an administrative database can result in an increased probability of inaccuracy for the diagnosis of lupus and autism, without further validation through a review of medical charts.  Additionally, other factors may contribute to increased risk of autism that may not be readily apparent from medical records, reinforcing the need for additional study.  Women with lupus who want to conceive should continue to work closely with their doctors to monitor their health during and after childbirth.

Read the full press release: Children Born To Mothers with Lupus Might Be At Increased Risk of Autism 
Read the abstract: https://ww2.rheumatology.org/apps/MyAnnualMeeting/Abstract/36280

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