HealthDay News — Pregnant women diagnosed with infections, particularly bacterial infections, during a hospital admission had an increased risk for delivering a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), study findings suggest.

Ousseny Zerbo, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and colleagues conducted a nested case-control study involving 407 children diagnosed with ASD (cases) and 2,075 children without ASD (frequency matched controls) to assess the association between maternal infections during pregnancy and the risk of delivering a child with an ASD. The findings were published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Women who were diagnosed with infections during a hospital stay were more likely to deliver a child with an ASD (aOR, 1.48; 95% CI: 1.07-2.04), particularly if the infection was bacterial (aOR, 1.58; 95% CI: 1.06-2.37). Women who had multiple infections during pregnancy also had increased risk of having a child with an ASD (aOR, 1.36; 95% CI: 1.05-1.78).

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“Multiple maternal infections and bacterial infections occurring during late pregnancy, particularly those diagnosed in a hospital setting, were associated with a higher risk of autism,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers found no overall association between diagnosis of any maternal infection during pregnancy and ASD risk (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.15; 95% CI: 0.92-1.43).


  1. Zerbo O et al. J Autism Dev Disord. 2013; doi:10/1007/s10803-013-2016-3.