Posted July 24, 2018 05:15:31 In the last three years, the number of children born with congenital heart disease has more than doubled.
And according to a new report, there is a growing concern among scientists that this is not just a statistical fluke, but could be linked to the increased incidence of autism spectrum disorders.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine published a new study that found that the prevalence of autism was nearly twice as high among children with congenitally inherited heart disease as among those without.
“We found that children with heart disease have a significantly higher risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” the report said.
“Our findings suggest that the increased risk of ASD in children with these genetic disorders is linked to a developmental cascade, where developmental delay, poor communication and social interactions, and other developmental problems, including sensory problems, are all elevated,” Dr. Mark Mazzola, lead author of the study, told reporters in the National Institutes of Health briefing room on Tuesday.
Mazzola said the research also highlighted the potential role of genetic predispositions in causing autism spectrum conditions.
The research, published online July 18 in the journal Science, focused on 8,532 children born in the United States between 2000 and 2013.
More than half of the children had heart disease.
Children with the genetic disorder have a greater risk of autism and other cognitive and behavioral disorders, according to the report.
“This study demonstrates that genes play a critical role in the development of ASD and related disorders,” said Dr. Stephen J. Peltz, an author of a separate study that looked at the same cohort of children.
Peltz said there are more than two dozen genes associated with the development and/or severity of ASD.
Some of these genes have been linked to autism.
Other genes were linked to schizophrenia.
But other genes had not been linked with autism in previous studies.
Researchers said more research is needed to determine whether genetic predisposition plays a role in ASD.
Pelt, who has been researching ASD for nearly a decade, told The Associated Press that more research was needed to establish a causal link.
“We still need to study this more thoroughly,” he said.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute.
While many parents have been worried about the health effects of the rising number of heart disease diagnoses, many parents are also concerned about the potential side effects, including obesity, diabetes, depression and other chronic conditions.
Pellet said he hopes the findings will lead to better treatment strategies for children with ASD.
“The most important thing to understand is that the risk of obesity in ASD is similar to other conditions, but the risk is higher,” he told The AP.
“I hope the findings that we’re getting out there are helping to put a face on this, to make it clear that this doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a serious health issue.”