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Front Neurosci. 2013 Jul 22;7:123. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00123. eCollection 2013.

Autism spectrum disorder in children born preterm-role of exposure to perinatal inflammation.

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School of Paediatrics and Child Health, The University of Western Australia Crawley, Perth, WA, Australia ; Centre for Neonatal Research and Education, University of Western Australia Perth, WA, Australia.


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the collective term for neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by qualitative impairments in social interaction, communication, and a restricted range of activities and interests. Many countries, including Australia, have reported a dramatic increase in the number of diagnoses over the past three decades, with current prevalence of ASD at 1 in every 110 individuals (~1%). The potential role for an immune-mediated mechanism in ASD has been implicated by several studies, and some evidence suggests a potential link between prenatal infection-driven inflammation and subsequent development of ASD. Furthermore, a modest number of contemporary studies have reported a markedly increased prevalence of ASD in children born preterm, who are at highest risk of exposure to perinatal inflammation. However, the mechanisms that underpin the susceptibility to infection-driven inflammation during pregnancy and risk of preterm birth, and how these intersect with the subsequent development of ASD in the offspring, is not understood. This review aims to summarize and discuss the potential mechanisms and evidence for the role of prenatal infection on the central nervous system, and how it may increase the susceptibility for ASD pathogenesis in children born preterm.


autism spectrum disorders; immunology; prenatal infection; preterm

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