The findings of the study led by Dr. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center were published in the latest issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. The study was carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the IDF Medical Corps, Kings College London and the University of North Carolina. ASD includes Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), all neurobehavioral conditions which are characterized primarily by problems with behavior, communication and social skills.
In his research, Weiser and his team discovered by reviewing databases in Israel and Sweden that ASD has a genetic link with schizophrenia. People with a schizophrenic sibling are 12 times more likely to have autism than those with no schizophrenia in the family, according to the study. Bipolar disorder in a sibling presented a similar pattern of association, but to a lesser degree, the team found.
Three data sets were used to determine the familial connection between the two conditions: one in Israel and two in Sweden.
In Israel, the database was used under the auspices of the ethics committees of both the IDF and Sheba Hospital and Tel HaShomer Medical Center, and included anonymous information about more than one million soldiers. It included patients with ASD and schizophrenia.
The same results were found in all three data sets, noted Weiser. The replication is what makes the finding so significant.
The findings shed new light on the genetics of these disorders, Weiser said.