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U.S. government to study autism

Mon Oct 9, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a $5.9 million study in six states to try to find the causes of autism.

The study, the next of the agency's promised initiatives to look more closely at the disorder, would look for factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, the CDC said.

It said 2,700 children aged 2 to 5 and their parents would take part in the five-year study. Researchers will look for infections or abnormal responses to infections in the child or parents, genetic factors, the mother's reproductive history, hormone levels, potential gastrointestinal problems in the child and other factors.

"We hope this national study will help us learn more about the characteristics of children with ASDs, factors associated with developmental delays, and how genes and the environment may affect child development," said Dr. Jose Cordero, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

"By conducting the study in six different geographic areas across the country with diverse populations and by identifying children from multiple sources in each community, we hope to have a study sample that more closely represents children with ASDs, other developmental problems, and typical development across the country," Cordero added in a statement.

Autism spectrum disorders include a range of conditions marked by repetitive behaviors and social and communication problems.

In May the CDC said the first national surveys of autism showed the condition occurs in up to 1 in every 175 children.

The surveys indicated that boys were nearly four times more likely to have been diagnosed with autism than girls and that Hispanic children were less likely to have an autism diagnosis.

The causes of autism are not clear and it is not clear whether the condition has become more common.

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