Trending Clinical Topics for April 2019

Ryan Syrek


April 26, 2019

Trending Clinical Topic of the Week (March 30 – April 5): Autism

A retracted study, a disproven myth, prenatal concerns, and a newly identified tool all helped make autism this week's top trending clinical topic. This week, a study that had identified a link between typical male brain anatomy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was retracted and replaced with a significantly different version. The study had previously claimed that the vast majority of women with autism (79.6%) have phenotypical male brains and that women with this brain makeup are three times more likely to have autism. The new version suggests that the male neuroanatomical brain phenotype does not carry this higher risk or association. Some critics feel that even the newly revised version still overstates the significance.

Correction of misinformation seems to be a recent theme, as a separate study published earlier this month definitively found that vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) does not increase the risk for autism or trigger autism in susceptible children. The largest single study to date explored more than 650,000 medical records of children born from 1999 to 2010. Researchers found no evidence to support the widely disseminated belief that the MMR vaccine has any role in autism. However, new information may have identified actual potential factors in autism development. Fetal exposure to maternal infection has been found to increase the long-term risk for neuropsychiatric diseases, including autism and depression.

The prenatal period may also be vital for prevention, as research published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that vitamins taken during the first month of pregnancy may reduce the risk for ASD in siblings of affected children by as much as half. Further research is needed to determine appropriate dose thresholds for folic acid and the effects of other nutrients during the prenatal period that may elevate the risk for autism. Finally, a small, randomized clinical trial found that Google Glass may help in the treatment of children with ASD. Children who used the device for 6 weeks demonstrated higher scores on at least one socialization subscale compared with children receiving only the usual treatments. From correcting misinformation to providing helpful new findings, these significant studies helped make autism this week's top trending clinical topic.

Read more information on autism.


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