There is no known, clear-cut cause of Autism, so researchers are constantly looking for some connection between environmental, medical and social aspects of life that could give doctors a cause. The latest study on autism suggests a potential connection between jaundice and autism risk.
In a previous study completed by Dr. Rikke Damkjaer Maimburg, found children diagnosed with autism were twice as likely to have been admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as an infant, most often for jaundice.
To delve further into this possibility, researchers pulled medical records for all babies born in Denmark between 1994 and 2004. There were 35,766 total births, 1,721 cases of mental illness and 577 cases of autism. Several factors were taken into consideration to narrow down the link between jaundice and autism.
What the research revealed was a potential 56% increased risk for children born full-term with jaundice to suffer from autism. These same children may also be at increased risk for language and speech disorders. Children born first into a family and those born before the 37th week of gestation seemed to be immune to the effect. There was also a sort of immunity associated with the season in which an infant was born. Children born in spring and summer were not as likely to be affected by autism even when jaundice was diagnosed after birth.
While this study provides some insight into a potential cause of autism, doctors are still up in the air as to why jaundice affects the brain in such a way. "The best guess as to how jaundice causes changes in psychological development is that bilirubin crosses the blood-brain barrier and destroys brain cells, as we know it does in cerebral palsy."
Source: Rikke Damkjaer Maimburg MPH PhD, Bodil Hammer Bech MD PhD, Michael Vaeth PhD, Bjarne Moller-Madsen MD DMS, Jorn Olsen MD PhD. Pediatrics. 11 October, 2010.