Volume 89 Issue 44 | p. 34 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 31, 2011

Antidepressant-Autism Link In Rats

Further study needed before warning patients to avoid select medications during pregnancy
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: autism spectrum disorders, antidepressants, SSRIs

Rats fed an antidepressant during early days of development show higher rates of autismlike characteristics, according to a study from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco. The research requires more verification and follow-up, but if the effect can be extrapolated to humans, the results suggest that antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), taken during human pregnancies could predispose those children to autism spectrum disorders, researchers say (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1109353108). The hypothesis is strengthened by a recent study showing that women who took this type of antidepressant during pregnancy had children with higher rates of autism spectrum disorders than those who didn’t (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsy​chiatry.2011.73). The current work does not necessarily apply to human conditions. Eight days after birth, 200 rats were fed the SSRI Celexa for two weeks, a developmental period that corresponds to the third trimester and early infancy in humans. The exposed rats later showed abnormal play and responses to sounds. However, notes lead author Rick C. S. Lin, “based on this study alone it would be premature to conclude that a pregnant mother should stop taking SSRIs. This study is a starting point and a lot more research needs to be done.”

 
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