Saturday, June 7, 2008

Low birth weight girls at higher risk for autism

Bloomberg reports new research that says that autism occurs in low birth weight baby girls at a higher rate than similar-sized boys.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests risk factors for autism vary by sex.

"Baby girls weighing less than 2.5 kilograms, or about 5.5 pounds, had 3.5 times increased risk of autism and baby girls born more than seven weeks early had a 5.4 times increased risk. Boys born small or early didn't have a significant difference in their risk of being autistic," the according to the study.

"This research indicates that boys and girls have different risk factors for the disorder," said study author Diana Schendel, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We know that low birth weight and pre-term birth are among the biggest risk factors for developmental disabilities,'' Schendel said. "The higher prevalence of autism supports monitoring these children carefully for behavioral problems.''

Babies born with low birth weights are likelier to have bleeding in the brain, lungs that are more likely to collapse, heart problems, and vision loss.

The study looked at children born from 1981 to 1993 in Atlanta, who lived to 3 years of age, and were still living in Atlanta at ages 3 to 10. More than 550 children with autism were paired to normal children born in the same year.