Paracetamol link to autism - study
Mothers following advice and taking paracetamol during pregnancy may be increasing the risk of their children developing autism, according to a new study.
The painkiller is often given to pregnant women, but researchers have now identified an association between exposure to the drug and subsequent autism in boys.
Published in the 'Journal of Epidemiology', the study found that children exposed to paracetamol during pregnancy were at a 30pc increased risk of losing some attention functions.
Those who were persistently exposed performed worse on computerised tests measuring inattention, impulsivity and visual speed processing.
Dr Jordi Julvez, a researcher at the CREAL Institute in Barcelona and the study's co-author, said: "Paracetamol could be harmful to neurodevelopment for several reasons.
"First of all, it relieves pain by acting on cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
"Since these receptors normally help determine how neurons mature and connect with one another, paracetamol could alter these important processes.
"It can also affect the development of the immune system, or be directly toxic to some foetuses that may not have the same capacity as an adult to metabolise this drug, or by creating oxidative stress."
However, the scientists stressed that further studies should be conducted, including more precise dosage measurements, before any changes to treatment recommendations are made.
The study recruited 2,644 mother-child pairs in a birth cohort study during pregnancy.
Of these, 88pc were evaluated when the child was one year old, and 79.9pc were evaluated when they were five years old. (© Daily Telegraph London)