Though causes of autism are considered largely genetic, considerable concern remains that exposure to Rh immune globulin (RhIg), which until 2001 in the United States contained the preservative thimerosal, can cause autism. To determine whether mothers of children with autism are more likely to be Rh negative (Rh(-)) or to have received RhIg preserved with thimerosal, which is 49.6% ethyl mercury, we surveyed families of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) ascertained through a University-based autism clinic considered free of ascertainment biases related to type of autism or severity. Between 2004 and 2006, 305 mothers of 321 children with an ASD agreed to participate in a telephone interview. Analysis of complete records including the blood group status and RhIg exposure of 214 families showed that Rh(-) status is no higher in mothers of children with autism than in the general population, exposure to antepartum RhIg, preserved with thimerosal is no higher for children with autism and pregnancies are no more likely to be Rh incompatible. This was also true for autism subgroups defined by behavioral phenotype, gender, IQ, regressive onset, head circumference, dysmorphology, birth status, essential, or complex phenotype. These findings support the consensus that exposure to ethylmercury in thimerosal is not the cause of the increased prevalence of autism. These data are important not only for parents in this country but also for the international health community where thimerosal continues to be used to preserve multi-dose vials which in turn makes vaccines affordable.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.