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Neonatal Thyroid Stimulating Hormone and Subsequent Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disability

Hypothyroid conditions in early life, if left untreated, are associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes, including intellectual disability (ID). However, evidence addressing the role of neonatal thyroid hormone insufficiencies in the altered neurobiology underlying autism spectrum disorders (ASD), particularly among its subphenotypes, is limited. We conducted a population-based, case-control study among a sample of children born during 2000-2003 in Southern California. We examined neonatal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) measured during routine newborn screening among children later diagnosed with ASD (n = 518) or ID (n = 145) and general population (GP) controls (n = 399). TSH was further analyzed in relation to ASD subgroups of intellectual ability and onset type (early-onset ASD vs. ASD with regression) ascertained by expert review of developmental services records. Odds ratios (ORs) of the differences in TSH between groups were obtained from multivariate logistic regression. We examined neonatal TSH as continuous (ln-transformed) and as quartiles. We found no association between continuous neonatal TSH levels and ASD (adj-OR: 1.00, 95% CI: 0.79-1.26) nor ID (adj-OR = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.73-1.40). Among ASD subphenotypes, we observed a suggestive inverse trend between ASD with regression and TSH, though the association only reached statistical significance in the highest TSH quartile (adj-OR: 0.50, 95% CI: 0.26-0.98). While there was little evidence that neonatal TSH is related to overall ASD risk, more work is needed to understand the influence of thyroid hormones on ASD subphenotypes. Autism Res 2020, 13: 444-455. © 2019 International Society for Autism Research,Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: Low levels of thyroid hormone at birth can negatively impact brain development. We studied whether newborn levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) were associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its subtypes in a sample of children born in California. Newborn TSH was not related to the overall risk of ASD or intellectual disability. However, the relationships of thyroid hormone levels at birth and specific subtypes of ASD, particularly ASD with developmental regression, may need more research.

Authors: Ames JL; Windham GC; Lyall K; Pearl M; Kharrazi M; Yoshida CK; Van de Water J; Ashwood P; Croen LA

Autism Res. 2020 03;13(3):444-455. Epub 2019-12-10.

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