In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology, researchers claimed that young boys who had been exposed to paracetamol while they were in the womb were at higher risk of autism.
Hailed as the first study of its kind, the study, conducted by Spanish researchers, recruited 2,644 mother-child pairs in a birth cohort study during pregnancy.
88% of the 2,644 were evaluated when the child was a year old.
“When they were again assessed at age five, exposed children were at higher risk of hyperactivity or impulsivity symptoms,” said a Daily Mail report.
“Persistently exposed children in particular showed poorer performance on a computerized test measuring inattention, impulsivity and visual speed processing,” the study found.
Boys, in particular, showed significantly more symptoms of autism when persistently exposed to paracetamol.
According to the study’s lead author, Claudia Avella-Garcia, it is because “the male brain may be more vulnerable to harmful influences during early life.”
Not everyone is convinced of the study’s results, however.
Next page find out what other professionals make of the study
Dr. James Cusack, director of science at autism charity Autistica, says there was “not sufficient evidence” backing up the suggestion.
“This paper does not provide sufficient evidence to support the claim that there is a strong association between paracetamol use and the presentation of symptoms of autism,” he said in an Independent article.
“The results presented are preliminary in their nature, and so should not concern families or pregnant women.”
Even the authors themselves claim that further study and evidence need to go into establishing a link between paracetamol use and autism.
“As the authors correctly state, more research, with careful control for other factors is required to understand whether a link exists at all,” said Dr. Cusack.
Echoing Dr. Cusack’s sentiments, Professor Alan Cameron, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that paracetamol is a drug safe and routinely used during all stages of pregnancy.
“It is important to highlight from these results we cannot determine a direct link between paracetamol usage and any neurodevelopmental problems,” he said in the Daily Mail report.
“Women should not be alarmed by the results of this study and we recommend that pregnant women continue to follow current guidance and take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time when necessary.”
READ: Some Drugs May Be Harmful to an Unborn Baby
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