Friday, May 16, 2008

Now it's pet shampoo that causes autism!

This is just data dredging. If you ask enough questions, some will correlate by chance alone

Chemicals found in pet shampoos may be linked to a raised risk of autism, a study of how environmental factors influence the developmental disorder has suggested. Mothers who used pesticide-based shampoos to wash their pets while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with an autistic spectrum disorder as those who did not, according to early results from a US research team.

The findings, from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study, which is funded by the US National Institutes of Health, raise the possibility that chemicals called pyrethrins found in pet shampoos and flea sprays are linked to a raised risk of autism. Scientists behind the research emphasise that the findings remain preliminary. Mothers of autistic children may be more likely to remember their use of chemicals than are mothers whose children develop normally.

The study asked 333 mothers of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) and 198 mothers of typically developing children to fill in questionnaires about their exposure to environmental chemicals, from three months before they became pregnant to their babies' first birthdays. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, of the University of California-Davis will present preliminary findings today at the International Meeting for Autism Research in London. "Mothers of ASD children were twice as likely to report using pet shampoos for fleas or ticks during the exposure period as compared with control mothers," she said. "The strongest association was during the second trimester, but risk was elevated for use in other time windows as well.

"It is possible that mothers of typically developing children tended to forget about their use of pesticides around the home, which could have biased the results. Nonetheless, the higher self-reported use of pet shampoos by mothers of children with ASDs raises concern about the safety of these products." It is accepted widely that autism is heavily influenced by genetics. Environmental factors may add to the risk.


Boost for IVF births

MELBOURNE scientists have developed a world-first IVF technique to boost pregnancy success rates, without multiple embryo implants. Monash University specialists have developed the first DNA fingerprinting to identify which embryos are most likely to result in the birth of a healthy baby. The discovery by Dr Gayle Jones and Dr David Cram may be used to pinpoint a handful of genes identifying the best very early stage embryos before they are implanted. Currently, with no reliable way of identifying which embryos are viable, many women have implanted multiple embryos to increase their chances of pregnancy resulting in high rates of multiple births.

Dr Jones said knowing which five-day-old embryos - blastocysts - were viable before implantation would eliminate the need for multiple transfers and give women a greater chance of becoming pregnant sooner. "With our method we believe we will be able to rank embryos according to their viability and put only one back without a significant reduction in the pregnancy outcome," Dr Jones said. "It should give confidence to both doctors and patients to change to electing to have single embryos put back."

The breakthrough has attracted strong international interest since being revealed in the Human Reproduction journal yesterday . Dr Jones warned, however, it would take another two years before more major progress was made because researchers needed to study more full-term pregnancies.

With the backing of Monash IVF, scientists from the university's Immunology and Stem Cell laboratories and their colleagues at the Genesis Athens Hospital in Greece recruited 48 women undergoing IVF, resulting in 37 babies.


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