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Neurotox Res. 2006 Aug;10(1):57-64.

A prospective assessment of porphyrins in autistic disorders: a potential marker for heavy metal exposure.

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The Institute for Chronic Illnesses, Silver Spring, MD 20905, USA.


Autism was recently associated with a urinary porphyrin pattern indicative of mercury toxicity in a large cohort of French children. The IRB of the Institute for Chronic Illnesses approved the present study. A total of 37 consecutive American patients (> or = 7 years-old) with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition-DSM IV), born from 1983-1998, that presented to the Genetic Centers of America for outpatient genetic evaluations were prospectively examined for urinary prophryin levels (LabCorp, Inc.) from June 2005-June 2006. Imaging and laboratory testing were conducted on each patient to rule-out other causal factors for their ASDs. As controls, age-, sex-, and race-matched neurotypical ASD siblings were examined. An apparent dose-response effect was observed between autism severity and increased urinary coproporphyrins. Patients with non-chelated autism (2.25-fold, 83% had levels > 2 SD above the control mean) and non-chelated ASDs (2-fold, 58% had levels > 2 SD above the control mean), but not patients with non-chelated pervasive developmental delay-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) or Asperger's disorder (1.4-fold, 46% had levels > 2 SD above the control mean), had significantly increased median coproporphyrin levels versus controls. A significant increase (1.7-fold) in median coproporphyrin levels was observed among non-chelated ASD patients versus chelated ASD patients. Porphyrins should be routinely clinically measured in ASDs, and potential ASD treatments should consider monitoring porphyrin levels. Additional research should be conducted to evaluate the potential role for mercury exposure in some ASDs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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