A new study is being carried out to investigate a possible link between a mother’s immune system and autism in her child.
US doctors have suggested that some women’s immune systems cannot recognise that they are with child and trigger an infection in the foetus’ brain that can cause autism symptoms.
Work currently being carried out on mice found that those injected with foetal brain antibodies from human mothers did behave in a manner similar to that of autism sufferers.
These included anxious and antisocial behaviour, hyperactivity and being easily startled by loud noises.
Dr Harvey Singer, who is leading a team of experts at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, said: “Autism is a complex disorder and it would be naïve to assume there’s a single mechanism that can cause it.
“It’s most likely the cumulative effect of several factors, including genes, metabolism, and the environment. We believe we have identified one of those factors.”
According to figures from the National Autistic Society, there are over half a million people in the UK with autism – around one every 100 people.