Intracellular Pathogen Infections and Immune Response in Autism Academic Article uri icon

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Identity
  • Additional Document Info
  • View All


  • BACKGROUND/AIMS: Perinatal exposure to infections during critical developmental periods is a promising area of study in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Epidemiological data has highlighted this relationship, pointing out significant correlations between perinatal exposure to pathogens and the occurrence of ASD. The aim of this review is to critically examine the present state of the art on intracellular pathogenic infection during pregnancy and postnatally, pointing out possible correlations with the development of ASD. METHODS: We reviewed and collected studies concerning potential associations between intracellular pathogens like viral, bacterial, and parasite infection and the risk of ASD. RESULTS: We included 14 publications, considering bacterial and/or viral infection that demonstrated the potential to trigger ASD. Nine case-control studies were included and 5 of them reported an association between infections and ASD. One of the 2 cohorts investigated demonstrated that maternal infection increased the risk of ASD in the offspring. Three cross-sectional studies demonstrated that ASD patients presented with chronic infections and active neuroinflammatory processes. Most of the reports suggest inflammatory response as a common factor, and interleukin 6 appears to be a key-player in this process. CONCLUSION: The immune responses generated by organisms that cause perinatal maternal infection, i.e., bacteria, viruses, or parasites, have been associated with the development of autism in offspring. Physiological changes transmitted from the mother during chronic or acute inflammation should be further investigated so that modulatory preventive measures can be developed.


  • Abib, Renata Torres
  • Gaman, Alexandru
  • Dargél, Aroldo A
  • Tamouza, Ryad
  • Kapczinski, Flavio
  • Gottfried, Carmem
  • Leboyer, Marion

publication date

  • 2018