A large study of children in Denmark found that children whose mothers had influenza or a fever lasting more than a week during pregnancy had a higher risk of autism.
The study, “Autism After Infection, Febrile Episodes, and Antibiotic Use During Pregnancy: An Exploratory Study,” will be published in the December 2012 Pediatrics and released online Nov. 12.
Researchers studied a population-based cohort of 96,736 children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2003. Mothers were asked about common infections, fevers and antibiotic use during their pregnancies and early postpartum. Researchers found no association between common maternal infections like respiratory infection, urinary tract infection or genital infections and a child’s risk of autism.
Children whose mothers reported influenza during pregnancy had twice the risk of being diagnosed with infantile autism, and children whose mothers had a fever lasting more than a week during pregnancy had a threefold risk of infantile autism. Researchers also found a small increased risk for autism spectrum disorder among children whose mothers used antibiotics during pregnancy.
However, study authors say that due to methodologic limitations of the study, the findings may be due to chance, and further research is needed.