Date of Award

Summer 5-2019

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Advisor(s)

MICHAEL CANNEL, PHD, MPH

Second Advisor

BEATRIZ TAPIA, MD EdD MPH

Third Advisor

FOLEFAC ATEM, MS, PHD

Abstract

Background: Peer-reviewed studies suggest that a hostile gestational environment is associated with delayed neurological development in infants. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is estimated to affect 1 in 59 children in the United States; however, few studies have specifically investigated risk factors for autism in Hispanic children. Purpose: The University of Texas RGV Hispanic Autism Research Center (HARC) studied Hispanic children with ASD and their biological mothers to identify potential environmental exposures and prenatal risk factors that could impact the risk for ASD through preliminary research in the Rio Grande Valley. Methods: This pilot study recruited 25 Hispanic mothers and their biological children with autism and 25 Hispanic control mothers and children. Participants completed a twelve-section survey that included specific prenatal risk factors, such as illnesses and medications taken during pregnancy. The goal was to evaluate if specific maternal prenatal risk factors are associated with a higher prevalence of ASD among Hispanic children living on the US-Mexico border. Results: Descriptive analysis showed a higher proportion of vaginal bleeding and urinary tract infections (UTIs) during gestation in vi mothers of children with autism than control mothers. We also found evidence of an association between ASD in children and mothers who experience vaginal bleeding, UTIs, and allergies. No significant inferences can be drawn of maternal medicines taken during gestation and ASD in the child. Conclusion: This pilot study adds to the body of research suggesting maternal inflammation contributes towards increasing autism risk. The results are consistent with peer-reviewed studies that included a varied racial/ethnic study population, suggesting no difference in risk factors between Hispanic women and women of other races.

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