Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Autism research in Jamaica

For the past couple of years I've been tracking some rather interesting publications coming out of data from Jamaica on the topic of autism / autism spectrum disorder (ASD) specifically looking at the possible overlap between genes and various environmental factors. I thought now would be a good time to bring this collection of papers to the blogging table and summarise their findings based on the analysis of data collected from The Jamaican Autism study. The fact that their latest research foray mentions some of the genetics of glutathione [2] with autism in mind is very interesting in light of some other findings in this area (see here). There's more on this shortly.
You're not Absolem. I'm Absolem. Stupid girl.

So:

Study 1: Maternal and paternal age are jointly associated with childhood autism in Jamaica [2].
Higher parental age - both mother and father age - seemed to be associated with a diagnosis of autism/ASD in offspring. Higher maternal age in particular, survived further statistical analysis as being a potentially important factor. This is a topic which has cropped up in autism research circles before (see here).

Study 2Seafood consumption and blood mercury concentrations in Jamaican children with and without autism spectrum disorders [3].
"Our findings do not support an association between blood mercury concentrations measured in Jamaican children 2–8 years of age and ASD case status." Such a conclusion was based on the analysis of blood mercury concentrations between ASD cases and a control group, and took into account important factors such as seafood consumption bearing in mind what is known about such a foodstuff and environmental exposures (see here).

Study 3The role of drinking water sources, consumption of vegetables and seafood in relation to blood arsenic concentrations of Jamaican children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders [4].
Blood arsenic levels were the focal point of this study, and a familiar conclusion to the previous study: "Our results do not support an association between postnatal total blood arsenic measured in Jamaican children 2-8 years of age and ASD case status." Again the consumption of certain foodstuffs seemed to be important correlates related to any elevated levels of arsenic detected.

Study 4: Role of fruits, grains, and seafood consumption in blood cadmium concentrations of Jamaican children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder [5].
Cadmium levels this time around, and again: "we did not find any significant differences between ASD cases and typically developing (TD) controls with respect to the 75th percentile of blood cadmium concentrations." Food (yes again) seemed to be a good correlate linked to differences in blood cadmium levels.

Study 5Blood manganese concentrations in Jamaican children with and without autism spectrum disorders [6].
Manganese, and wait for it... "Our results do not indicate a relationship between postnatal BMC [blood manganese concentrations] and ASD case status of Jamaican children ages 2–8 years."

Study 6Blood Lead Concentrations in Jamaican Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder [7].
Lead (Pb), a favourite topic of this blog, was the metal of choice when it came to analysis to see if there was any connection between the stuff and autism. Er,... "Our results do not support an association between postnatal blood lead concentration measured in Jamaican children 2–8 years of age and ASD case status."

I think you can see the trend coming out of this data examining samples of children living in Jamaica with and without autism. Perhaps just as important are the various discussions about the ways and means that participants might have been exposed to these various metals and how one needs to be aware of how food in particular, could be a significant source of exposure. This perhaps puts a new slant on previous studies which have suggested an increased body burden of certain metals to be associated with autism (see here) and the question of whether dietary sources of such metals have adequately been taken into account. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very keen to see more 'metallomics' applied to autism research (see here), perhaps just controlling for a few more potentially important confounders.

The Jamaican Autism study also provides quite a nice template for setting up further geographically distinct initiatives to compare and contrast with/against. I note for example that the recent study from Hodgson and colleagues [8] looking at autism in Oman (itself the topic of quite a few peer-reviewed publications) suggested some rather different results for their cohort: "Mercury levels were markedly elevated in the hair of autistic subjects vs. control subjects" albeit based on hair analysis not blood. With the previous caveat about confounders in operation, one wonders whether there may be more to see across different countries particular when bringing into play the potential importance of that glutathione connection which has also previously received some mention in the Jamaican autism studies [9].

And then some music. Jamaica and music, mmm... One Love.

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[1] Rahbar MH. et al. nteraction between GSTT1 and GSTP1 allele variants as a risk modulating-factor for autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2015; 12: 1-9.

[2] Rahbar MH. et al. Maternal and paternal age are jointly associated with childhood autism in Jamaica. J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Sep;42(9):1928-38.

[3] Rahbar MH. et al. Seafood consumption and blood mercury concentrations in Jamaican children with and without autism spectrum disorders. Neurotox Res. 2013 Jan;23(1):22-38.

[4] Rahbar MH. et al. The role of drinking water sources, consumption of vegetables and seafood in relation to blood arsenic concentrations of Jamaican children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorders. Sci Total Environ. 2012 Sep 1;433:362-70.

[5] Rahbar MH. et al. Role of fruits, grains, and seafood consumption in blood cadmium concentrations of Jamaican children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Res Autism Spectr Disord. 2014 Sep 1;8(9):1134-1145.

[6] Rahbar MH. et al. Blood manganese concentrations in Jamaican children with and without autism spectrum disorders. Environ Health. 2014 Aug 23;13:69.

[7] Rahbar MH. et al. Blood Lead Concentrations in Jamaican Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Dec 23;12(1):83-105.

[8] Hodgson NW. et al. Decreased glutathione and elevated hair mercury levels are associated with nutritional deficiency-based autism in Oman. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2014 Jun;239(6):697-706.

[9] Rahbar MH. et al. Role of metabolic genes in blood arsenic concentrations of Jamaican children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Aug 6;11(8):7874-95.

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ResearchBlogging.org Rahbar MH, Samms-Vaughan M, Loveland KA, Pearson DA, Bressler J, Chen Z, Ardjomand-Hessabi M, Shakespeare-Pellington S, Grove ML, Beecher C, Bloom K, & Boerwinkle E (2012). Maternal and paternal age are jointly associated with childhood autism in Jamaica. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 42 (9), 1928-38 PMID: 22230961