In utero exposure to maternal infection tied to increased autism, depression risk

  • Al-Haddad BJS & al.
  • JAMA Psychiatry
  • 6 Mar 2019

  • International Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • Maternal infection requiring hospitalization during pregnancy is linked to increased odds for autism or depression in the child.

Why this matters

  • Previous studies have linked maternal infection of varying severity—although usually severe—and in different pregnancy trimesters with risk for autism in the child.

Key results

  • Autism and depression risk increased with in utero exposure to any maternal infection requiring hospitalization (adjusted HRs; 95% CIs):
    • Autism: 1.79 (1.34-2.40); and
    • Depression: 1.24 (1.08-1.42).
  • Similar values seen with severe maternal infection:
    • Autism: 1.81 (1.18-2.78); and
    • Depression: 1.24 (0.88-1.73).
  • Increases also seen specifically with maternal urinary tract infection (UTI):
    • Autism: 1.89 (1.23-2.90); and
    • Depression: 1.30 (1.04-1.61).
  • No increased risks seen for bipolar disorder, psychosis/schizophrenia.

Study design

  • Swedish registry study; data for 4,278,146 children born from January 1, 1973 to December 31, 2014.
  • Followed for up to 41 years, associations of inpatient diagnoses of neuropsychiatric disorders with maternal infection requiring hospitalization, severe maternal infection, maternal UTI.
  • Funding: Foundations, US and Swedish universities, NIH. 

Limitations

  • May not translate outside the inpatient setting, which was used for both maternal and child diagnoses in this study.