A study by Paula E Goines et al., published in Molecular Autism, indicates that divergent cytokine profiles are expressed in serum samples taken during the second trimester of pregnancy from i) mothers bearing a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); ii) a child with a developmental delay (DD) other than ASD; or iii) a child from the general population with no known developmental deficiencies (GP).
Approximately 1 in 100 children is diagnosed with an ASD, and there are no clear biological markers for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Mothers of children with ASD have been reported to have a higher incidence of allergic and autoimmune diseases compared to mothers of typically developing children. However, it is not known whether the maternal immune profile during pregnancy is associated with the risk of bearing a child with ASD or other neurodevelopmental disorders.
In the Molecular Autism study, Paula E Goines and colleagues from the University of California at Davis, USA, conducted a case-control study using archived maternal blood samples collected during the period from 15 to 19 weeks of gestation to investigate the potential association between serum cytokine profiles and the risk of bearing a child subsequently diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder.
The authors of this study found increased serum levels of IL-4, IL-5 and IFN-gamma in mothers bearing a child with ASD. In contrast, mothers bearing a child with developmental delay (DD) but not ASD demonstrated increased levels of the cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, GM-CSF and MIP-1alpha. Thus, mothers bearing children with autism had cytokine profiles that may be consistent with an allergy and/or asthma immune phenotype, while mothers bearing children with DD but not autism demonstrated a more inflammatory phenotype.
The authors conclude that different maternal immune profiles during pregnancy may be linked to divergent neurodevelopmental outcomes in the child.
SOURCE: Mol Autism 2011, 2: 13 [Epub ahead of print]