Autism Insights

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Role of Environmental Exposure to Toxins and Microbial Infections in Autism

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Publication Date: 23 Sep 2014

Type: Consise Review

Journal: Autism Insights

Citation: Autism Insights 2014:6 15-25

doi: 10.4137/AUI.S13839


Autism is a complex developmental neurological disorder causing impaired function and structure of brain development. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism is estimated to affect 1 in 88 children in USA. In spite of several reports linking prenatal exposure to environmental toxins and to microbial agents via infections to a spectrum of autism and autism-like disorders, to date, neither the associated risk factor nor the pathophysiological mechanisms have been established unequivocally. The impact of these environmental agents is believed to be similar to that of other neuropsychiatric disorders. Earlier, we have reported the impact and immunological implications of mercury and viral infections in autism. In this review, we highlight the current incidence of autism, discuss brain development in autism, present the prominent features of neuroanatomy in autism, describe neurodegenerative findings in autistic individuals, summarize the hypotheses to explain autism, and provide a perspective of the molecular events in autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The early events that trigger this complex cluster of neurological disorders may involve the breach of cellular interface, which leads to the influx of water which in turn damages the developing neurons during the early stages of brain development. Alternatively, neurodegenerative disorders can be caused by the interaction of environmental agents like heavy metals with transport proteins like aquaporins and gap junction protein complexes embedded in the neuronal network during synaptogenesis.




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