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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • infection;
  • HHV-6 virus;
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae;
  • Mycoplasma species

Abstract

We examined the blood of 48 patients from central and southern California diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) by using forensic polymerase chain reaction and found that a large subset (28/48 or 58.3%) of patients showed evidence of Mycoplasma spp. infections compared with two of 45 (4.7%) age-matched control subjects (odds ratio = 13.8, P < 0.001). Because ASD patients have a high prevalence of one or more Mycoplasma spp. and sometimes show evidence of infections with Chlamydia pneumoniae, we examined ASD patients for other infections. Also, the presence of one or more systemic infections may predispose ASD patients to other infections, so we examined the prevalence of C. pneumoniae (4/48 or 8.3% positive, odds ratio = 5.6, P < 0.01) and human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6, 14/48 or 29.2%, odds ratio = 4.5, P < 0.01) coinfections in ASD patients. We found that Mycoplasma-positive and -negative ASD patients had similar percentages of C. pneumoniae and HHV-6 infections, suggesting that such infections occur independently in ASD patients. Control subjects also had low rates of C. pneumoniae (1/48 or 2.1%) and HHV-6 (4/48 or 8.3%) infections, and there were no coinfections in control subjects. The results indicate that a large subset of ASD patients shows evidence of bacterial and/or viral infections (odds ratio = 16.5, P < 0.001). The significance of these infections in ASD is discussed in terms of appropriate treatment. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.