Nearly two-thirds of the children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders recorded in the National Birth Defect Registry (NBDR) also suffer from structural birth defects, according the national nonprofit, Birth Defect Research for Children (BDRC). The group reported that most of the defects affect the face, head and central nervous systems of newborns.
Birth Defect Research for Children, a national nonprofit founded in 1982, maintains the registry to collect data from parents on all kinds of structural birth defects and functional deficits including autistic spectrum disorders. Betty Mekdeci, executive director of BDRC explains, "We designed the registry with a collaboration of prominent scientists. The registry's extensive data allows researchers to identify possible patterns underlying the incidence of birth defects as well as prenatal conditions and exposures. We are asking all parents of children with structural and functional birth defects to contact us to register for our database to continue this study."
"Our current data suggests that genetic and environmental triggers may interact to account for the increase in ASDs. We need to collect more data to confirm the pattern we are seeing."
The new analysis reveals that over 60% cases also had structural birth defects, primarily Central Nervous System (CNS) or Craniofacial Defects. The other 40% of the ASD cases reported associated developmental problems, but no reported structural birth defects.
Most frequent CNS disorders reported were Microcephaly (small head), Cerebral Palsy, Chiari Malformation (a structural defect of the brain) and Absent or Thin Corpus Callosum (the band connecting the two halves of the brain), The most frequent Craniofacial Defects included Low Set Ears, Partial Hearing Loss, Abnormal Teeth and Abnormal Facial Structure.
The registry also collects data on prenatal exposures to medications, illnesses and toxins. The most frequently reported maternal exposure was acetaminophen (AP). AP use has increased in recent years. Recent studies have reported associations between maternal AP ingestion and childhood asthma and a stomach defect called gastroschisis.