An Exploratory Examination of Neonatal Cytokines and Chemokines as Predictors of Autism Risk: The Early Markers for Autism Study



      The identification of an early biomarker for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) would improve the determination of risk, leading to earlier diagnosis and, potentially, earlier intervention and improved outcomes.


      Data were generated from the Early Markers for Autism study, a population-based case-control study of prenatal and neonatal biomarkers of ASD. Newborn bloodspots of children with ASD (n = 370), children with developmental delay (n = 140), and general population (GP) controls (n = 378) were analyzed for 42 different immune markers using a Luminex multiplex platform. Comparisons of immune marker concentrations between groups were examined using logistic regression and partial least squares discriminant analysis.


      Children with ASD had significantly increased neonatal levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8 compared with GP controls. An increase in IL-8 was especially significant in the ASD group with early onset compared with the GP group, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.97 (95% confidence interval, 1.39–2.83; p = .00014). In addition, children with ASD had significantly elevated levels of eotaxin-1, interferon-γ, and IL-12p70 relative to children with developmental delay. We observed no significant differences in levels of immune markers between the developmental delay and GP groups.


      Elevated levels of some inflammatory markers in newborn bloodspots indicated a higher degree of immune activation at birth in children who were subsequently diagnosed with ASD. The data from this exploratory study suggest that with further expansion, the development of neonatal bloodspot testing for cytokine/chemokine levels might lead to the identification of biomarkers that provide an accurate assessment of ASD risk at birth.


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      Linked Article

      • Cytokines and Chemokines in Novel Roles: Exploring Their Potential as Predictors of Autism Spectrum Disorder
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 86Issue 4
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          Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by the primary symptoms of impaired social interaction, communication deficits, and repetitive, stereotyped behaviors. These symptoms are caused by a mixture of both genetic (>50%) and environmental factors and start to manifest from 2 years of age. Currently, the most effective approach to treating ASD is social stimulation, and its success depends on initiating treatment as early as possible. Therefore, the prediction of an ASD risk factor at the earliest possible age would allow for more timely behavioral intervention and may considerably improve the chances of counteracting the symptoms of ASD.
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