Frequency of neuro-psychiatric dysfunction in anti-SSA/SSB exposed children with and without neonatal lupus

Lupus. 2010 Mar;19(3):300-6. doi: 10.1177/0961203309354542. Epub 2009 Dec 14.


Neonatal lupus is a model of passively acquired autoimmunity whereby anti-SSA/Ro-SSB/La antibodies target the fetal heart and neonatal skin in a minority of cases. Since neuro-psychiatric impairment has been reported in humans and mice exposed prenatally to a variety of maternal autoantibodies including anti-Ro/La, this study was initiated to evaluate the potential neurotoxic effects of these specific autoantibodies and the overall frequency of autoimmune diseases, general health, and somatic growth of children with neonatal lupus and their unaffected siblings. In addition to the general health questionnaires maintained on family members enrolled in the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus (RRNL), specific questionnaires related to neuro-psychiatric development were sent to all mothers whose children (both affected and unaffected) were older than 5 years of age. Controls consisted of healthy friends. Of 121 anti-Ro exposed children meeting the inclusion criteria, information was returned on 104 (33 cardiac manifestations of neonatal lupus, 20 rash, and 51 unaffected siblings) and 22 of the friend controls. The mean age of all of the children was 14.5 years (range 5-39). In total, 42 (40%) of the 104 anti-Ro exposed children were reported to have a neuro-psychiatric disorder, compared with 6 (27%) of the friend controls (p = 0.34). For 8 (24%) of the congenital heart block (CHB) children (6 boys, 2 girls) the mothers reported attention problems. Four, all boys, were on stimulants. Of the rash children, 4 (20%) (2 boys, 2 girls) had attention problems with one boy on Ritalin. Of the unaffected siblings, 9 (18%) (8 boys and 1 girl) had attention problems with 3 boys on stimulants. One (5%) of the control children (a girl) had attention problems, not requiring therapy. There was no statistical difference in attention problems between the groups (p = 0.120). Behavioral problems were present in all groups with no statistical differences noted. The prevalence of depression, anxiety, developmental delays, learning, hearing, and speech problems were not significantly different between groups. In the CHB children, one boy has nephrotic syndrome and one girl has psoriasis. In the rash children, one girl has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In the unaffected group there are five children with autoimmune diseases, two with inflammatory bowel diseases (one boy and one girl), one boy has a spondyloarthropathy, one girl has alopecia areata and one young woman has Antiphospholipid syndrome. In the control group one boy has Henoch Schonlein purpura. There were four cases of hypothyroidism, possibly secondary to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, three in boys with CHB and one in a girl with rash. None of the unaffected siblings or controls had hypothyroidism. Parental reporting of neuro-psychiatric abnormalities was high in anti-Ro exposed children regardless of the neonatal lupus manifestation. However, medication use was limited and although the frequency of this reporting was greater than friend controls, it did not reach significance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ribonucleoproteins / immunology
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / immunology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • SS-A antibodies
  • SS-B antibodies