Autism May Be Related To Exposure To Mycotoxins

Autism is an increasingly common disorder, with a 2012 USA study reporting that 1 in 68 children (14.5 per 1,000) of 8 years old have been diagnosed with autism 1. Autism prevalence was 4.5 times more common in boys (23.4 per 1,000) than in girls (5.2 per 1,000) 1 Exposure to mycotoxins (mold toxins) may play a role in the pathogenesis of autism 2.

Many common mycotoxins such as ochratoxins, fumonisins, zearalenone, gliotoxin, aflatoxins, and trichothecenes have hepatotoxic, immunosuppressive, oxidative, nephrotoxic, and neurotoxic effects.

An Italian study of 172 autistic children and 61 controls reported significantly higher urinary levels of the trichothecene mycotoxins deoxynivalenol (also known as DON or vomitoxin) and de-deoxynivalenol 2. Blood serum levels of the mycotoxins aflatoxin M1, ochratoxin A, and fumonisin were also significantly higher in the autistic children than in the controls. Other research suggests that ochratoxins may be more toxic to male animals than female animals.


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These findings may explain the male predominance of autism incidence. In addition, levels of vomiting and diarrhea were significantly higher in the autistic children as compared to controls 2 .

Other studies have linked exposure to many chemicals with an increased incidence of autism including exposures to lead, manganese, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organophosphate insecticides, and ethyl alcohol 3 .

References / Sources:

  1. Christensen DL, Braun KVN, Baio J, et al. Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years -Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2012. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2018;65(13):1-23.
  2. De Santis B, Raggi ME, Moretti G, et al. Study on the Association among Mycotoxins and other Variables in Children with Autism. Toxins. 2017;9(7).
  3. Sealey LA, Hughes BW, Sriskanda AN, et al. Environmental factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders. Environ Int. 2016;88:288-298.
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