Is an Immune Disorder the Root of Autism?

Posted By Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology || 31-Aug-2012

I have been watching the online response to the August 25, 2012 New York Times opinion section story by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, "An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism". A number of you have emailed me the link with your concerns. Others have also forwarded me the story that ran in response to the Time's story, "Can You Prevent Autism" by Valerie Isakova, Shine (Yahoo) Parenting Editor.

Velasquez-Manoff claims that, "In at least a third of cases, autism is an auto-immune disorder that starts in the womb." Here's what I've found in treating pregnant women with infertility or who have suffered recurrent pregnancy losses or miscarriages. I do believe that the mother's inflammatory cytokines (that may be elevated with infection, diet allergens such as gluten, and auto-immune disease, to name only a few) may activate glial cells in a baby's brain that produce inflammatory cytokines in the baby – creating a vicious cycle. What we have been doing at Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology is treating cases like this by decreasing the inflammatory cytokines. Through testing we identify these inflammatory cytokines early on and treat accordingly to decrease them. We measure the inflammatory cells and the inflammatory cytokines during the critical time of development in the first trimester of the pregnancies.

I have been documenting for some time my results with this testing. I have had women come to the practice after miscarriages and recurrent pregnancy losses, who have a child already that appears to be on the autism spectrum. In these cases, we've identified the source of the inflammatory reaction prior to or at the start of the pregnancy, treated accordingly, and successful pregnancies have resulted in babies that are fine -- no signs of mental delays or signs of being on the autism spectrum.

What I can say is that treating early on likely decreases the cells available to create the cytokines in the mother and may help eliminate or significantly decrease the baby's exposure.

So now, if you have infertility or are just planning on becoming pregnant for the first time – what is the best recommendation for dealing with this?

This first thing is to not panic about this. There are certainly many who have these elevations and are not aware and do fine. We don't have enough data yet to recommend screening all women prior to conception, as we would end up treating far more than necessary. But I do think that all women with a history of miscarriages, and certainly those that have had a child on the autism spectrum should have a thorough examination by a reproductive immunologist.

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