Topic: Acetaminophen use in pregnancy linked to autism, attention deficit in children
Pregnant women’s use of acetaminophen may increase the odds of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in their children, according to an analysis of cord blood from nearly 1,000 children.
The study design has a major limitation: Cord blood provides only a short window of exposure to acetaminophen because the drug is metabolized in hours. Still, the findings “warrant additional investigations,” says lead investigator Xiaobin Wang, director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It is often marketed as Tylenol in the United States.
The new study’s finding is consistent with other studies that have reported a link between the drug and autism or ADHD. Like those other studies, the new work finds that the odds of having either condition increase with the drug’s dose; however, the overall odds are low.
Instead of relying on self-reports from women as the other studies did, Wang’s team measured acetaminophen levels in umbilical cord blood.
This provides strong evidence that the children were in fact exposed to acetaminophen in utero, says Jordi Julvez, assistant research professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain, who was not involved in the study. “This is a very, very important study on that and gives us a step forward to the validity of this potential association.”
Still, the data do not show that acetaminophen use directly contributes to autism: Health conditions that lead women to take acetaminophen could be the driving factor. For instance, fever during pregnancy is independently associated with increased odds of autism and of ADHD.
Topic Discussed: Acetaminophen use in pregnancy linked to autism, attention deficit in children
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