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New Genetic Test Believed to Predict Autism

Prenatal testing for birth defects has been a long-standing practice for women who have a family history of certain chromosomal abnormalities, are over 35, or have an ultrasound that reveals other high-risk factors. It is not without its own risks because amniotic fluid is removed which may distress the baby. It may also present difficult decisions and extra worry for expectant mothers.

A new study published in Translational Psychiatry has found that some mothers carry an antibody that can serve as a predictor of autism.  The researchers claim that a test for “six antibodies in an expectant mom’s blood may predict with more than 99 percent certainty which children are at highest risk of developing autism,” according to Time magazine. The study also revealed that nearly one quarter of cases of autism could be related to the presence of the antibodies.

The underlying cause of autism has been under hot debate and discussion as the numbers of children placed on the autism spectrum have jumped in recent years—going from 1 child in 88 in 2008 to 1 in 50, according to most recent CDC studies. Environmental factors and/or a combination of genetics have long been explored as causes for autism.

Just like amniocentesis, this new antibody test that can predict a mother’s likelihood to give birth to a child on the autism spectrum is not without considerable ethical and personal questions for parents. What would you do? Would you want to know?

copyright Tetra Images/ Corbis

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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