A study published this year in JAMA shows that even minor infections in a mother can have a significant impact on children, including a risk of autism. UPI reported on the study.
The study says that maternal infections cause a nearly 80% increased risk of autism and a 24% increased risk of depression in children. These included major infections, like chorioamnionitis, but also common illnesses like the flu or a UTI.
The researchers believe that the increased risk may be due to the inflammation caused by infection. They looked at birth records for 1.8 million people in Sweden who were born between 1973 and 2014.
They also looked at the risks of getting a flu shot for this damage. They did not find a correlation. They concluded that pregnant women who do not get flu shots could be putting their children at neurological risk.
“These results emphasize the importance of avoiding infections during pregnancy, which may impart subtle fetal brain injuries contributing to the development of autism and depression,” researchers wrote in the study.
If autism is caused by subtle damage to the brain due to inflammation during development, that would be a major breakthrough in finding the root cause of this condition. However, more research is needed before any definitive conclusions can be made.