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Can 1st-trimester ultrasound affect autism severity?

By Erik L. Ridley, AuntMinnie staff writer

September 6, 2016 — In a disturbing new finding, first-trimester ultrasound was linked to greater severity of autism symptoms, including poorer cognitive outcomes and increased repetitive behaviors, in fetuses with a genetic predisposition to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research published online September 1 inAutism Research.

In a retrospective analysis of data from a national autism genetic repository, a team led by Sara Jane Webb, PhD, of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that first-trimester ultrasound was associated with lower mean nonverbal IQ and increased repetitive behaviors in boys with ASD and gene copy number variations (CNVs), compared with those who hadn’t undergone a first-trimester ultrasound study.

In addition, having a first-trimester ultrasound correlated with increased repetitive behaviors for all children with ASD in the study, regardless of gender or the presence of identified CNVs.

“These data suggest that heterogeneity in ASD symptoms may result, at least in part, from exposure to diagnostic ultrasound during early prenatal development of children with specific genetic vulnerabilities,” the authors wrote.

The research team, which also included members from the University of Washington, did not assess if first-trimester ultrasound caused autism — only whether it affected the severity of ASD symptoms.

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