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Fetal Exposure to Acetaminophen May Increase Risk for ADHD, ASD

Cord biomarkers of in utero acetaminophen exposure tied to increased risk for childhood ADHD, ASD

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Cord biomarkers of fetal exposure to acetaminophen are associated with an increased risk for childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study published online Oct. 30 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Yuelong Ji, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed 996 mother-infant dyads to examine the correlations between cord plasma acetaminophen metabolites and physician-diagnosed ADHD, ASD, both ADHD and ASD, and other developmental disabilities in childhood. Three cord acetaminophen metabolites were measured in cord plasma samples obtained at birth.

The final sample of 996 participants included 257 children with ADHD only, 66 with ASD only, 42 with ADHD and ASD, and 304 with other developmental disabilities; 327 were neurotypical. The researchers found that being in the second and third tertiles of cord acetaminophen burden versus the first tertile correlated with higher odds of an ADHD diagnosis (odds ratios, 2.26 [95 percent confidence interval (CI), 1.40 to 3.69] and 2.86 [95 percent CI, 1.77 to 4.67], respectively) and ASD diagnosis (odds ratios, 2.14 [95 percent CI, 0.93 to 5.13] and 3.62 [95 percent CI, 1.62 to 8.60], respectively). Across strata of potential confounders, including maternal indication, substance use, preterm birth, and child age and sex, there were consistent associations between acetaminophen burden and ADHD and ASD; point estimates for the odds ratios varied from 2.3 to 3.5 for ADHD and from 1.6 to 4.1 for ASD.

“Our findings support previous studies regarding the association between prenatal and perinatal acetaminophen exposure and childhood neurodevelopmental risk and warrant additional investigations,” the authors write.

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