The study was released at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) - a meeting of autism scientists started by Cure Autism Now, the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the National Alliance for Autism Research to accelerate knowledge of this increasingly common and perplexing disorder. It is estimated that autism now affects 1 in every 166 children.
"Understanding the biology of autism is crucial to developing better ways to diagnose and treat it," said Judy Van de Water, associate professor of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute. "While impaired communication and social skills are the hallmarks of the disorder, there has not yet been strong scientific evidence that the immune system is implicated as well. We now need to design carefully controlled studies that tell us even more about the way in which a dysfunctional immune system may or may not play a role in the disorder itself."
Van de Water, along with co-investigator of the study Paul Ashwood, assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, isolated immune cells from blood samples taken from 30 children with autism and 26 typically developing children aged between two and five years of age. The cells from both groups were then exposed to bacterial and viral agents that usually provoke T-cells, B cells and macrophages - primary players in the immune system.
Of the agents tested in the study - tetanus