Porphyrinuria in Korean children with autism: correlation with oxidative stress

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2010;73(10):701-10. doi: 10.1080/15287391003614000.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder believed to be associated with heavy metal exposure, especially mercury (Hg), and is characterized by disturbances in metal elimination. Various studies correlated elevated heavy metal body burden with ASD diagnoses as evidenced by increased urinary porphyrin levels in patients. Urinary porphyrins were also determined in Korean patients diagnosed with ASD (n = 65) who visited AK Eastern Medicinal Clinic in Kangnam-gu, Seoul, from June 2007 to September 2008, compared to controls (n = 9) residing in the same area, by means of Metametrix (CLIA-approved) laboratory testing. Further, urinary organic acids as indicators of hepatic detoxification/oxidative stress were also analyzed among patients diagnosed with ASD. Significant increases were found in patients diagnosed with ASD for proporphyrins, pentacarboxyporphyrin, precoproporphyrin, coproporphyrins, and total porphyrins. Significant correlations were observed between hepatic detoxification/oxidative stress markers and urinary porphyrins. In agreement with published data, the present results demonstrated that measurement of porphyrins serves as a reliable tool for diagnosis of heavy metal involvement in ASD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autistic Disorder / urine*
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Body Burden
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metals, Heavy / adverse effects
  • Metals, Heavy / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress* / drug effects
  • Porphyrins / urine*
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Biomarkers
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Porphyrins