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Maternal immune conditions are increased in males with autism spectrum disorders and are associated with behavioural and emotional but not cognitive co-morbidity.


Epidemiological and animal research shows that maternal immune activation increases the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in offspring. Emerging evidence suggests that maternal immune conditions may play a role in the phenotypic expression of neurodevelopmental difficulties in children with ASD and this may be moderated by offspring sex. This study aimed to investigate whether maternal immune conditions were associated with increased severity of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in children with ASD. Maternal immune conditions were examined as predictors of ASD severity, behavioural and emotional well-being, and cognitive functioning in a cohort of 363 children with ASD (n = 363; 252 males, 111 females; median age 3.07 [interquartile range 2.64-3.36 years]). We also explored whether these outcomes varied between male and female children. Results showed that maternal asthma was the most common immune condition reported in mothers of children with ASD. A history of maternal immune conditions (p = 0.009) was more common in male children with ASD, compared to female children. Maternal immune conditions were associated with increased behavioural and emotional problems in male and female children. By contrast, maternal immune conditions were not associated with decreased cognitive function. The findings demonstrate that MIA may influence the expression of symptoms in children with ASD and outcomes may vary between males and females.

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