Up to a third of all cases of autism may be the result of Lyme disease and other chronic infections, new research suggests.
Researcher Robert Bransfield believes that tick-borne infections, such as Lyme disease, can weaken the immune system during infancy and make the sufferer more vulnerable to autistic-spectrum diseases.
He estimates that between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of all autistic children may be infected by Lyme disease or other similar infections.
If so, it means that 140,000 autistic children in the USA alone have the problem as a direct result of an infection. If they were treated with high-dose antibiotics - considered to be the most effective therapy, especially in the early stages of infection - the savings in healthcare and education costs would amount to around $358bn, he estimates.
(Source: Medical Hypotheses, published online: November 5, 2007. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2007.09.006).