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Published July 2011 | Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

Maternal infection and immune involvement in autism


Recent studies have highlighted a connection between infection during pregnancy and the increased risk of autism in the offspring. Parallel studies of cerebral spinal fluid, blood and postmortem brains reveal an ongoing, hyper-responsive inflammatory-like state in many young as well as adult autism subjects. There are also indications of gastrointestinal problems in at least a subset of autistic children. Work on the maternal infection risk factor using animal models indicates that aspects of brain and peripheral immune dysregulation can begin during fetal development and continue through adulthood. The offspring of infected or immune-activated dams also display cardinal behavioral features of autism, as well as neuropathology consistent with that seen in human autism. These rodent models are proving useful for the study of pathogenesis and gene–environment interactions as well as for the exploration of potential therapeutic strategies.

Additional Information

© 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Available online 7 April 2011. T he work cited from the author's laboratory was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Autism Speaks and Binational Science foundations. Owing to space limitations, reviews are cited rather than primary research articles wherever possible.

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