Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common and severe neuro-developmental disorder in early childhood which is defined by social and communication deficits and repetitive and stereotypic behaviours. The aetiology of ASD remains poorly understood. Susceptibility to development of ASD has significant environmental components, in addition to the profound genetic heritability. Few genes have been associated to the risk for ASD development. There is substantial evidence implicating chronic neurological inflammation and immune dysregulation leading to upregulation of inflammatory cytokines in the ASD brain, probably due to altered blood-brain barrier function. The immune system is characterized by excessive and skewed cytokine responses, modulated T cell reactivity, decreased regulation and production of immunosuppressive cytokines, modified NK function and increased autoantibody production.
Conclusion: The perinatal environment generates vulnerability to chronic neuro-inflammation in the brain associated with profound modulation and dysregulation in the immune system leading to the rapid development of ASD in genetically susceptible children.