Elevated protein concentrations in newborn blood and the risks of autism spectrum disorder, and of social impairment, at age 10 years among infants born before the 28th week of gestation
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Among the 1 of 10 children who are born preterm annually in the United States, 6% are born before the third trimester. Among children who survive birth before the 28th week of gestation, the risks of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and non-autistic social impairment are severalfold higher than in the general population. We examined the relationship between top quartile inflammation-related protein concentrations among children born extremely preterm and ASD or, separately, a high score on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS total score ≥65) among those who did not meet ASD criteria, using information only from the subset of children whose DAS-II verbal or non-verbal IQ was ≥70, who were assessed for ASD, and who had proteins measured in blood collected on ≥2 days (N = 763). ASD (N = 36) assessed at age 10 years is associated with recurrent top quartile concentrations of inflammation-related proteins during the first post-natal month (e.g., SAA odds ratio (OR); 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.5; 1.2-5.3) and IL-6 (OR; 95% CI: 2.6; 1.03-6.4)). Top quartile concentrations of neurotrophic proteins appear to moderate the increased risk of ASD associated with repeated top quartile concentrations of inflammation-related proteins. High (top quartile) concentrations of SAA are associated with elevated risk of ASD (2.8; 1.2-6.7) when Ang-1 concentrations are below the top quartile, but not when Ang-1 concentrations are high (1.3; 0.3-5.8). Similarly, high concentrations of TNF-α are associated with heightened risk of SRS-defined social impairment (N = 130) (2.0; 1.1-3.8) when ANG-1 concentrations are not high, but not when ANG-1 concentrations are elevated (0.5; 0.1-4.2).
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