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Flu in pregnancy, Autism linked??

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A Danish study published online today in Pediatrics is already causing concern among pregnant women -- and sparking criticism.

After NBC aired a segment about the study on "Today," questions about the methods used in the study arose as quickly as alarming headlines suggesting a link between fever or flu during pregnancy and autism.

The Danish researchers questioned mothers of almost 100,000 children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2003 about their history of infection, influenza and antibiotic use during pregnancy.

The results initially seem significant: Women who reported having the flu while pregnant were twice as likely to have kids who developed autism.

A week-long fever indicated a tripled risk. But, as the authors themselves point out, "misreporting of influenza is likely to be considerable," and "The results may be due to multiple testing; the few positive findings are potential chance findings."

Others questioned the comparisons drawn in the study: "The more comparisons you make, the more likely some difference will look important when it's not," Emily Willingham wrote for Forbes.

"[This] study is purely explorative and it is far too soon to suggest any clinical implications," HealthDayquotes study lead author Dr. Hjordis Osk Atladottir, of the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at University of Aarhus. "Indeed, the study shows that around 99 percent of women experiencing influenza, fever or taking antibiotics during pregnancy do not have children with autism."

Other recent studies have had mixed findings: a Swedish study found no link between infections and autism, although a study from the U.S. found that women who had fevers while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with autism or a developmental disorder, and another Danish study showed an association between hospital visits in the first trimester and autism.

While the results of the study may be speculative, advice seems to be consistent on one front: if you're pregnant, get a flu shot.

What are your opinions on this? Does this make you want to get a flu shot (considering you are pregnant, that is)? 

by on Nov. 13, 2012 at 8:17 PM
Replies (11-20):
by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 5:56 AM

I agree son is Autistic and his is linked to the fact that his brain never fully developed in utereo...spelling on that?  You know what I mean!

Quoting momof3_dll:

Oh geez here we go again. My youngest son has autism and my belief is that its a dna or rna chromosome defect. I don't know there's so many theories out there. We just don't know the true cause(s) yet and probably won't for a long time.

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:06 AM
I have 2 sons. One is Mod/severe ASD with sensory processing issues and the other is not affected by any sort of disorder or condition. My ASD son was a difficult pregnancy, birth, and spent some time in NICU despite being born full term and nearly 8 lbs. I vomited every day, had thyroid issues, gestational diabetes, massive swelling in the legs, a horrible itchy skin rash due to an allergic reaction to cocoa butter,1 UTI, and sciatic nerve pain.With my other son, I had light nausea for the first trimester and light swelling in the end of my pregnancy, but no other issues. I didn't get the flu shot either time, and I didn't get the flu or a fever with either. In talking with other moms with kids on the spectrum, it is very common for those pregnancies to be difficult... maybe it isn't the flu or whether you get a shot, but MAYBE this is simply because those kids with ASD are tougher to deal with... even in utero.
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by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:06 AM
1 mom liked this

Just another mainstream media hyped thing to dispel the REAL issue of autism and what is causing it....there is NO ONE thing that will predispose a child to developing the syndrome.  Maybe pharma should focus on the real cause......i seriously doubt the spike in autism over the last 5 yrs has anything to do with pregnant women not recieving the flu shot...there have been NO safety studies EVER done on this, so how can a dr adamantly insist his patient recieve the vax with no proof it works in pregnant women, and no proof it doesn't cause a negative outcome for the fetus? it's just absurd the medical community is stooping to this low point.  Talk about poisoning the fetus in the womb!!

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:19 AM
2 moms liked this

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:23 AM
2 moms liked this

maybe pharma should study these too, along with the toxicity of the flu shot while pregnant

Automotive exhaust 
Cleaning products 
Chemicals in treated water 
Consumption of alcohol or tobacco 
Environmental pollution 
Insect repellents 
Prescription drugs 
Psychological stress 
Social stress 
Ultraviolet radiation 
Whole-body vibration 

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Myself nor my daughter get flu shots.  They are unnecessary because we are both healthy.

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:40 AM
I never get flu shots anyways
by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:55 AM

so now the scare tactic for pregnant women will be, 'You don't want your child to have autism do you? Get a flu shot and chances are good your child won't develop autism"....smh

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 6:59 AM

Where are the studies about women who had the flu while pregnant, and don't have a child with autism?

by on Nov. 15, 2012 at 7:04 AM

If we are talking about viruses, antibiotics don't generally affect viruses, and probably would not effect the course of a viral disease in pregnancy. Most antibiotics work by attacking the membrane around a bacteria by interfering with the chemicals used to make that membrane - they can't touch the covering of a virus.

 However, antibiotic use with a viral infection MAY indicate a more severe infection(people may get an antibiotic when they are so sick they even wonder if they really have the flu) - or a person that's unusually vulnerable to that virus - and that may be important - but you have to read this whole thing to find out why - LOL.

For many years there has been research about viruses and various neurological disorders.   There are some scientists out there who are doing research on this idea, and others who do not believe that this line of inquiry is going to turn up anything useful.  

The majority of scientists, I think, are keeping an open mind but aren't sure the data yet is convincing.   Most scientists don't decide these things on emotion, like others do, but on data - that means reading the study itself, knowing how the data was collected, and whether it really shows a CAUSE or just an ASSOCIATION.

This study is based on 'self reporting'.   That means it simply notes that more women than just would be coincidental, note flu in pregnancy, and have an autistic child.   It doesn't say WHY.  

It mightbe that there is something to self reported data.   It can also be, that women just have a tendency to have an autistic child and then note that they were ill during pregnancy.  Why?   Maybe because there just is that tendency to think back like that, when one's child has autism.   Wondering if anything that happened during the pregnancy, might have something to do with autism. 

If even a few women did that it might make the data look like there's a connection between the two.  Remember, this is a SELF REPORTING study - studies based on self reported data have that weakness -it's possible that it's measuring patterns in self reporting behavior, not an actual connection.

There are other possibilities - one - influenza all by itself, causes autism.   If someone believes this it's easy to propose that women need not feel obviously ill during the pregnancy but still could have flu.  

Two - children with autism are made more autistic if the mother gets a flu (or perhaps other virus) during pregnancy.   People who believe THIS can point to other viruses that are believed to affect offspring neurologically. 

MANY infectious agents are believed to make themselves more 'successful' by affecting the behavior of their victims.   Toxoplasma gondii needs to complete its life cycle in the cat - some researchers have found a weird thing - toxoplasma g actually appears to alter the behavior of mice it affects - making them less afraid of cats.  They're more likely to get caught by cats and thereby complete the life cycle of T. gondii.   Isn't that odd?

Not really.  Malaria makes people listless, making them more vulnerable to mosquito attack, so they continue the life cycle of that infectious agent.  In other words, there are infectious agents that affect their victim's neurology.   And in fact many infectious agents affect the behavior of their victims - by affecting their neurology.   Their nerve cells - their brain. 

The day before yesterday I heard a lecture/summit on the role of infectious agents in schizophrenia, another neurological disorder that begins early in life.  Researchers and authors really paid attention to this meeting - even Irv Gottesman (who wrote an interesting book on schizophrenia) called in a question. 

Four or five researchers presented their data.  It was VERY convincing, and this was not self reporting studies but actual studies of the genes involved and of the amount of infection in those with the disorder.   And yet, when Gottesman asked his question ("would a virus be SUFFICIENT ALONE to cause schizophrenia?")  the researchers answered NO.   They did not believe so at this time.

But before you ignore the whole thing and decide it's bunk, they did find one very, very peculiar thing.

I'm not immediately impressed by data that finds a slightly higher degree of infection with toxoplasma, or flu, or herpes simplex 1, in people with schizophrenia.  People with schizophrenia may take more risks or be less careful with hygeine and simply expose themselves to more infectious agents more often - if even a few were careless, this would be detected in the data.   There is the possibility that the connection is that simple.  

Data might take a pattern like that with autistic children, either due to them visiting health care places where people congregate more often(something that can spread a number of different infectious agents),  plus they may inquisitively pick up or mouth things that could spread germs.   Even the most diligent parents may not prevent the data from showing a slight uptick in infections if they have a child with autism...and this IS a slight uptick, not a huge uptick.

However, I'm keeping an open mind.  I'm thinking that the best path is for women who are willing to get the flu vac, to get it.

Why?   You can see I'm not 100% convinced that infectious agents even have a slight part in some cases of autism.   So why am I keeping an open mind?

Well, there was this one little thing about the meeting on 11/13.   One researcher found something peculiar - there are gene variations associated with schizophrenia - yup, lots of them.   There are also gene variations that are associated with a vulnerability to flu infections.  

And it seems that some people who really have more severe schizophrenia (affects them cognitively more), also have the gene variations associated with vulnerability to flu infections.

No, it still doesn't prove anything - YET.   And it isn't autism but schizophrenia. And yet, it is a neurological disorder that starts very early in life.   It does bring up a possibility.  

And.... it makes one think.  Because the possibility exists, I think the best path is if you are willing to get the flu vac, get it.  Whether you're willing to get the flu vac or not, take the usual precautions to avoid infections of all types, during pregnancy.  

It''s going to be difficult for research to move to the next step.   While they can't deliberately infect a large group of pregnant women with flu or T.gondii or HSV-1 and stand around and watch and see if they have more autistic children, they do have other options.   Mice don't get autism, but they get flu, and toxoplasma, and HSV-1, and  the genes involved   behave in similar enough ways that it helps them understand if there is an autism-infection interaction.  

For now.   That may change radically in the future.   For now, that's what it looks like to me.

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