A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that women who take antidepressants during the mid-to-late stages of their pregnancy experience an 87% increased risk of having a child diagnosed with autism. Here’s what the study actually found and why there’s no immediate cause for alarm.
Researchers previously reported that a drug used for almost a century to treat trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, reversed environmental autism-like symptoms in mice. Now, a new study suggests that a genetic form of autism-like symptoms in mice are also corrected with the drug, even when treatment was started in young adult mice.
Suramin is not a drug that can be used for more than a few months without a risk of toxicity in humans.
The effect is not permanent. The experimental mice’s autistic behaviours come back once the suramin has disappeared from their bodies. But these are interesting results.
For a very long time now, scientists have viewed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a cellular/genetic disorder and relatively recently researchers are now appreciating neuroimmunology as a whole. However, neuroimmunology is still a difficult field to work in, for a variety of reasons, so there is still a lot of potential in the near and distant future. The genetic, molecular, cellular, systems-level perturbations that lead to ASD do in fact underlie every mental disorder. The two are not mutually exclusive and in fact are dependent on one another.