Neonatologists and some new mothers have suspected it for years.
But a new study by Danish researchers of more than 700,000 babies found that jaundiced newborns are 67% more likely than others to be later diagnosed with autism.
Newborn jaundice is a fairly common condition in which the baby’s skin turns yellowish due to the buildup of a substance called bilirubin, derived from the breakdown of hemoglobin in red blood cells.
Rikke Damkjaer Maimburg, lead author of the study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, told USA Today that while “doctors have long known that premature babies have a higher risk of autism, this study found a link between jaundice and autism among full-term infants.”
The new research offers “no smoking gun” evidence that baby jaundice leads inevitably to a diagnosis of autism, says Vinod Bhutani, a Stanford neonatologist and an expert on the diagnosis and treatment of bilirubin-related disorders, who was not involved in the study. “But there’s a strong enough association that we have to take a prospective look at this. We can’t dismiss it. And I think we may find that bilirubin plays an important role in the development of autism.”
Of course, he said, it’s important not to panic. Continue reading