An increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases in family members of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been previously reported. ASD is also a common problem co-occurring in children with fragile X syndrome (FXS). Why ASD occurs in some individuals with FXS, but not all, is largely unknown. Furthermore, in premutation carrier mothers, there is an increased risk for autoimmune diseases. This study compared the rate of ASD and other neurodevelopmental/behavioral problems in 61 children with FXS born to 41 carrier mothers who had autoimmune disease and in 97 children with FXS of 78 carrier mothers who did not have autoimmune disease. There were no significant differences in the mean age (9.61 ± 5.59 vs. 9.41 ± 6.31, P = 0.836), cognitive and adaptive functioning in children of mothers with and without autoimmune disease. Among children whose mothers had autoimmune disease, the odds ratio (OR) for ASD was 1.27 (95% CI 0.62-2.61, P = 0.5115). Interestingly, the OR for seizures and tics was 3.81 (95% CI 1.13-12.86, P = 0.031) and 2.94 (95% CI 1.19-7.24, P = 0.019), respectively, in children of mothers with autoimmune disease compared to children of mothers without autoimmune disease. In conclusion, autoimmune disease in carrier mothers was not associated with the presence of ASD in their children. However, seizures and tics were significantly increased in children of mothers with autoimmune disease. This suggests a potential new mechanism of seizure and tic exacerbation in FXS related to an intergenerational influence from autoimmunity in the carrier mother.
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