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Autism is back with double the headlines this week—first with news that prenatal testing for the disorder is in the works, Britain's Guardian newspaper website reports. In addition, a new study out of the University of California, Davis, suggests that the cause of the disorder is environmental.
The Guardian cites a Cambridge University study of 235 children that links a high level of testosterone in the amniotic fluid of their pregnant moms to autistic traits in those children by the age of 8. The news of the findings has sparked a debate about the consequences of such a prenatal screening (similar to amniocentesis testing for Down syndrome), which offers the chance to possibly terminate the pregnancy.
Meanwhile, UC Davis researchers suggest in a new study that the skyrocketing number of autism cases in California is not due to increased awareness and diagnoses, but more likely external factors. Researchers are looking at the "possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents in neurodevelopment." The UC Davis study notes that the autism rate in California rose more than 500 percent in the last 10 years.
Fit Pregnancy has reported in the past that very early detection could be the new hope for treating autism. Regardless, the disorder remains a mystery to most parents and many in the medical community, but there have been many strides recently in Decoding Autism.
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.