A recent study using mice has indicated that there is a correlation between autism-like behaviors and changes in an overactive immune system, according to an article on PsychCentral.com.
While many studies have previously had implications that immune system defects could be a contributing factor of autism, this new study showed that by injecting a pregnant mouse with something that mimics the effects of a viral infection, it triggered autism-like effects in her offspring. The results were decreased social activity with other mice, repetitive behaviors such as burying marbles or excessive self grooming, and impaired communication. The affected mice were also less ultrasonically vocal than the typical mice that were observed.
Researchers were able to isolate the immune system as a cause of these behaviors through the use of a bone marrow transplant and the use of stem cells, after which the autism-like effects were less severe. However, they are unable so far to consider a bone marrow transplant to be an acceptable alternative for humans, since these findings are so new, and they are not sure if the stem cells specifically corrected this behavior.
According to an article on www.drtipster.com, future studies are in the works to find a link between gastrointestinal microbial flora, known as microbiota. The article also designates the immune system as the new target in autism management.
There have been larger studies conducted, such as one in Denmark, where the medical history of every person born between 1980-2005 showed a correlation between a viral infection during the mother’s first trimester and risk the child had for ASD. This new study only seems to confirm the immune system as a valuable research outlet.
This research is still at early stages, but there is a lot of potential here to further research on immune system manipulations in those affected by autism. This could lead to effective medical treatments that in turn will make living with autism much more manageable.