Autism Research: December 27, 2013 Week in Review

adn-icon-298x300Hospital acquired infections test positive for risk of autism

 The latest study published in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reports that pregnant mothers that were diagnosed with a bacterial infection during their stay in the hospital were 58% more likely to deliver a child with autism spectrum disorders. Senior author of study, Dr. Lisa Croen said that although infections are fairly common amongst pregnant mothers, but it’s the bacterial infections that lead to increased risk of ASD. The viral and fungal infections did not bear any such correspondence with the risk of autism.

The study throws light on the necessity of pregnant mothers not ignoring infections and seeing their healthcare provider immediately on suspicion of having any infection. Commonest infections during pregnancy are urinary tract infections.

 Research unlocks genetics behind memory struggles in autism

Children with autism have difficulty identifying faces, is a widely known problem. Scientists examined about 200 families, each having at least one child with autism, to understand the role of genes in recognizing faces. They found that a minor alteration in a DNA sequence that led to a major impact on memory for faces. The gene variation was found to be so common as one third of the population inheriting a copy of the variant gene from each parent.

This clears why while some people can recall every face they have ever seen, many can’t seem to place their own family members and relatives! The study went ahead to determine that the gene is related to oxytocin or the love hormone, which helps bond with people and influences memory skills of faces. This opens new doors for attempting to use oxytocin to improve memory in autistic children.