Maternal pregnancy levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) has been previously associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the offspring. We conducted a population-based nested case-control study with 500 children with ASD, 235 with developmental delay (DD) and 580 general population (GP) controls to further investigate whether elevated CRP during pregnancy increases the risk of ASD. Maternal CRP concentration was measured in archived serum collected during 15-19 weeks of pregnancy and genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data were generated. The levels of CRP were compared between ASD vs GP and DD vs GP. The genetic associations with CRP were assessed via linear regression. Maternal CRP levels in mid-pregnancy were lower in mothers of ASD compared with controls. The maternal CRP levels in the upper third and fourth quartiles were associated with a 45 and 44% decreased risk of ASD, respectively. Two SNPs at the CRP locus showed strong association with CRP levels but they were not associated with ASD. No difference was found between maternal CRP levels of DD and controls. The reasons for the lower levels of CRP in mothers of ASD are not known with certainty but may be related to alterations in the immune response to infectious agents. The biological mechanisms underlying this association remain to be clarified.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry