Autism and the immune system

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;38(3):337-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01518.x.


As our knowledge of the interactions of the immune, nervous and endocrine systems progresses, complex links with the origin and course of psychopathology in childhood are revealed. In this article the neuroimmunological literature on autism is reviewed. Relevant aspects of immune functioning and the neuroendocrine-immune network are described. We present the immunological findings in autistic patients within two related conceptual frameworks: a viral and an autoimmune hypothesis. Interpretation of data is hampered by conceptual and methodological differences between studies. Both the clinical significance of the immune changes and the causal connection between immune changes and psychopathological phenomena in autism remain to be elucidated. Recommendations for further research are given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / immunology*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / psychology
  • Brain / immunology
  • Child
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Risk Factors
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / psychology


  • Cytokines