Data analysis links autism severity to genetics, ultrasound

For children with autism and a class of genetic disorders, exposure to diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester of pregnancy is linked to increased autism severity, according to a study conducted by researchers at UW Medicine, University of Washington Bothell and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
The study looked at the variability of symptoms among kids with autism, not what causes autism. The researchers found that exposure to diagnostic ultrasound in the first trimester is linked to increased autism symptom severity. The greatest link is among kids with certain genetic variations associated with autism; 7 percent of the children in the study had those variations.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines recommend that diagnostic ultrasound be used only for medical necessity.
‘I believe the implications of our results are to bolster the FDA guidelines,’ said corresponding author Pierre D. Mourad, a UW professor of neurological surgery in Seattle. He is also a professor of engineering and mathematics at UW Bothell. As a UW Medicine scientist, he specializes in translational research on ultrasound and the brain.
Mourad said their results are related to the first trimester of pregnancy. Data from looking at the effect of ultrasound on the second and third trimester showed no link, he said.
Mourad said he and his colleagues now intend to look more closely into links between ultrasound and autism severity, as well as the possibility – thus far not shown – that ultrasound exposure could contribute to autism incidence.

UW Medicine