Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pre-natal test may detect autism

LONDON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- British researchers say high levels of testosterone discovered during pre-natal testing may indicate a risk of autism.

Cambridge University scientists say the testosterone levels were determined using amniotic fluid removed from pregnant mothers through amniocentesis, which is used to detect Down syndrome in unborn infants, the Guardian newspaper reported Monday.

Lead researcher Simon Baron-Cohen said there needs to be a debate over the consequences of testing for autism. Many people with autism have extraordinary abilities in mathematics and music.

"If there was a pre-natal test for autism, would this be desirable?" he said. "What would we lose if children with autistic spectrum disorder were eliminated from the population?"

Researchers from Cambridge's autism research center discovered the testosterone link after studying 235 children from birth to the age of 8. Children with high levels of testosterone before birth showed autistic traits such as a lack of sociability and verbal skills by the time they were 8, the newspaper said.

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