Environmental factors and genetic susceptibility are implicated in the increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Mycotoxins are agricultural contaminants of fungal origin that represent real risk factors for human health and especially for children. Thus, the main hypothesis of this work is that the deterioration of the clinical manifestation of autism in children may result from the exposure to mycotoxins through the consumption of contaminated food. Within a cross-sectional study, a group of autistic children (n = 172) and a group of controls (n = 61) (siblings and non-parental) were recruited in North and South Italy. All children had blood and urine samples taken, for testing some mycotoxins by a LC-MS/MS validated method. Blood samples were also tested for assessing specific IgG against food and fungal antigens and cytokines. The analyses outputs highlighted statistically significant differences comparing mycotoxins levels between (i) children groups both in urine (deoxynivalenol and de-epoxydeoxynivalenol, p = 0.0141 and p = 0.0259, respectively) and serum (aflatoxin M1, ochratoxin A and fumonisin B1, p = 0.0072, p = 0.0141 and p = 0.0061, respectively); (ii) a group of selected fungal IgGs, and IgGs against wheat and gluten and (iii) cytokines. These results suggest the need for a deeper examination of the role that mycotoxins may have on the etiology of ASD.
Keywords: IgG; autism syndrome; cytokine/chemokine; environment; exposure; mycotoxins.