Maternal immune activation during pregnancy is associated with more difficulties in socio-adaptive behaviors in autism spectrum disorder

Sci Rep. 2023 Oct 17;13(1):17687. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-45060-z.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are neurodevelopmental conditions characterised by deficits in social communication and interaction and repetitive behaviours. Maternal immune activation (MIA) during the mid-pregnancy is a known risk factor for ASD. Although reported in 15% of affected individuals, little is known about the specificity of their clinical profiles. Adaptive skills represent a holistic approach to a person's competencies and reflect specifically in ASD, their strengths and difficulties. In this study, we hypothesised that ASD individual with a history of MIA (MIA+) could be more severely socio-adaptively impaired than those without MIA during pregnancy (MIA-). To answer this question, we considered two independent cohorts of individuals with ASD (PARIS study and FACE ASD) screened for pregnancy history, and used supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms. We included 295 mother-child dyads with 14% of them with MIA+. We found that ASD-MIA+ individuals displayed more severe maladaptive behaviors, specifically in their socialization abilities. MIA+ directly influenced individual's socio-adaptive skills, independent of other covariates, including ASD severity. Interestingly, MIA+ affect persistently the socio-adaptive behavioral trajectories of individuals with ASD. The current study has a retrospective design with possible recall bias regarding the MIA event and, even if pooled from two cohorts, has a relatively small population. In addition, we were limited by the number of covariables available potentially impacted socio-adaptive behaviors. Larger prospective study with additional dimensions related to ASD is needed to confirm our results. Specific pathophysiological pathways may explain these clinical peculiarities of ASD- MIA+ individuals, and may open the way to new perspectives in deciphering the phenotypic complexity of ASD and for the development of specific immunomodulatory strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies