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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • ASD;
  • maternal immune function;
  • immunoglobulins and pregnancy

Abstract

Previous studies indicate that prenatal exposure to infections is a possible pathway through which autism spectrum disorders (ASD) could be initiated. We investigated whether immunoglobulin levels in archived specimens obtained from newborns subsequently diagnosed with ASD are different from levels in newborn specimens from controls. Children with ASD born in six California counties in 1994 were ascertained through records of the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and Kaiser Permanente; controls were randomly selected using birth certificates. Archived newborn blood specimens were obtained from the California Genetic Disease Screening Program (GDSP) for N = 213 cases and N = 265 controls and assayed to determine levels of total IgG, antigen-specific IgG to selected common pathogens, total IgM, total IgA, and C-reactive protein (CRP). We did not find measurable levels of total IgM or IgA in any neonate and measurable CRP was present in only a few. No antigen-specific IgG antibodies were elevated in cases compared to controls and total IgG levels were lower. In adjusted models, a 10-unit increase in total IgG yielded an OR = 0.72 (95% CI 0.56, 0.91); a significantly decreasing trend in risk of ASD was observed across increasing exposure quartiles of total IgG (P = 0.01). The finding of lower IgG in cases may indicate maternal immune dysfunction during gestation and/or impaired transplacental transfer of immunoglobulins. Further investigation of IgG levels in newborns and the mechanisms by which they might be associated with ASD are warranted.