Sunday, January 11, 2009

Autism and Environmental Factors - Valproate

In "Study finds epilepsy drug may increase chance of autistic children", reported in Future Medicine, a summary is provided of a UK study which found that children born to mothers who took the epilepsy drug valproate while pregnant were seven times more likely to develop autism than children born to mothers who took no epilepsy drug while pregnant. The risk was not found with other epilepsy drugs.

The article summarizes the study by RL Bromley, G Mawer, J Clayton-Smith and GA "Gus" Baker reported in "Autism Spectrum Disorders following in utero exposure to antileptic drugs. Neurology 71, 1923-1924 (2008). One of the study authors, Gus Baker, is quoted in the Future Medicine article:

"The potential risk for autism in this study was substantial for children whose mothers took valproate while pregnant, but more research needs to be done since these are early findings. However, women who take valproate while pregnant should be informed of the possible risks of autism and are encouraged to consult their doctor. Those who are taking valproate should not stop their treatment without talking to their doctor first."

The valproate study is one more indicator that autism research funding which has been so heavily weighted toward genetics research should be more evenly distributed to include more environmental research. It is also of interest to note that Dr. Bernardine Healy also emphasized the particular issue of pregnant women being given flu vaccines containing thimerosal and the fact that thimerosal passes the placenta.

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