Elevated maternal C-reactive protein and autism in a national birth cohort

Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;19(2):259-64. doi: 10.1038/mp.2012.197. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Autism is a complex neuropsychiatric syndrome with a largely unknown etiology. Inflammation during pregnancy may represent a common pathway by which infections and other insults increase risk for the disorder. Hence, we investigated the association between early gestational C-reactive protein (CRP), an established inflammatory biomarker, prospectively assayed in maternal sera, and childhood autism in a large national birth cohort with an extensive serum biobank. Other strengths of the cohort included nearly complete ascertainment of pregnancies in Finland (N=1.2 million) over the study period and national psychiatric registries consisting of virtually all treated autism cases in the population. Increasing maternal CRP levels, classified as a continuous variable, were significantly associated with autism in offspring. For maternal CRP levels in the highest quintile, compared with the lowest quintile, there was a significant, 43% elevated risk. This finding suggests that maternal inflammation may have a significant role in autism, with possible implications for identifying preventive strategies and pathogenic mechanisms in autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Inflammation*
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors


  • C-Reactive Protein