Autism and Fungi


De Santis B, Raggi ME, Moretti G, Facchiano F, Mezzelani A, Villa L, Bonfanti A, Campioni A, Rossi S, Camposeo S, Soricelli S, Moracci G, Debegnach F, Gregori E, Ciceri F, Milanesi L, Marabotti A, Brera C. Study on the Association among Mycotoxins and other Variables in Children with Autism. Toxins (Basel). 2017 Jun 29;9(7). PMID: 28661468

The hypothesis of this work is that the deterioration of the clinical manifestation of autism in children may result from the exposure to mycotoxins through the consumption of contaminated food. Within a cross-sectional study, a group of autistic children (n = 172) and a group of controls (n = 61) (siblings and non-parental) were recruited in North and South Italy. The analyses outputs highlighted statistically significant differences comparing mycotoxins levels between (i) children groups both in urine (deoxynivalenol and de-epoxydeoxynivalenol, p = 0.0141 and p = 0.0259, respectively) and serum (aflatoxin M1, ochratoxin A and fumonisin B1, p = 0.0072, p = 0.0141 and p = 0.0061, respectively); (ii) a group of selected fungal IgGs, and IgGs against wheat and gluten and (iii) cytokines.


De SB, Brera C, Mezzelani A, et al. Role of mycotoxins in the pathobiology of autism: A first evidence. Nutr Neurosci. 2017:1–13. 85. PMID: 28795659 

By comparing the results of autistic patients with those of unrelated controls, a significant association was found for ochratoxin (OTA) levels in urines (P = 0.0002) and sera (P = 0.0017), and also comparing patients with siblings and unrelated controls together (P = 0.0081). These results are the first describing a possible role of OTA in the pathobiology of autism. Recalling the male prevalence of ASD (male/female = 4-5/1), it is noted that, in animal models, OTA exerts its neurotoxicity especially in males. Moreover, in vitro, OTA increases microRNA-132 that is dysregulated in autistic patients and involved in reciprocal regulation of the autism-related genes MeCP2 and PTEN.


Duringer J, Fombonne E, Craig M. No Association between Mycotoxin Exposure and Autism: A Pilot Case-Control Study in School-Aged Children. Toxins (Basel). 2016 Jul 20;8(7). PMID: 27447670

A pilot experiment in 54 children (n = 25 autism spectrum disorder (ASD), n = 29 controls; aged 12.4 ± 3.9 years) screened for 87 urinary mycotoxins via liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to assess current exposure. Zearalenone, zearalenone-4-glucoside, 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol, and altenuene were detected in 9/54 (20%) samples, most near the limit of detection. No mycotoxin/group of mycotoxins was associated with ASD-diagnosed children. To identify potential correlates of mycotoxin presence in urine, we further compared the nine subjects where a urinary mycotoxin was confirmed to the remaining 45 participants and found no difference based on the presence or absence of mycotoxin for age (t-test; p = 0.322), gender (Fisher’s exact test; p = 0.456), exposure or not to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Fisher’s exact test; p = 0.367), or to other medications (Fisher’s exact test; p = 1.00).


Wong CT, Wais J, Crawford DA. Prenatal exposure to common environmental factors affects brain lipids and increases risk of developing autism spectrum disorders. Eur J Neurosci. 2015;42:2742– 2760. PMID: 26215319 

In this review, the structure and establishment of two key protective barriers for the brain during early development are described: the blood-brain barrier; and the placental barrier. Then, the first comprehensive summary of other environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals in air pollution, pesticides and consumer products, which can also disturb PGE2 signaling and increase the risk for developing ASDs is provided. Also, how these exogenous agents are capable of crossing the protective barriers of the brain during critical developmental periods when barrier components are still being formed is described. This review underlines the importance of avoiding or limiting exposure to these factors during vulnerable periods in development.


Kilburn KH, Thrasher JD, Immers NB. Do terbutaline- and mold-associated impairments of the brain and lung relate to autism? Toxicol Ind Health. 2009 Oct-Nov;25(9-10):703-10. PMID: 19793774

The authors measured neurobehavioral and pulmonary functions in eight autism spectrum disorder (ASD) boys aged 8 to 19 years diagnosed clinically and compared them to 145 unaffected children from a community with no known chemical exposures. As 6 of 35 consecutive mold/mycotoxin (mold)-exposed children aged 5 to 13 years had ASD, we compared them to the 29 non-ASD mold-exposed children, and to the eight ASD boys. The eight ASD boys averaged 6.8 abnormalities compared to 1.0 in community control boys. The six mold-exposed ASD children averaged 12.2 abnormalities. The most frequent abnormality in both groups was balance, followed by visual field quadrants, and then prolonged blink reflex latency. Neuropsychological abnormalities were more frequent in mold-exposed than in terbutaline-exposed children and included digit symbol substitution, peg placement, fingertip number writing errors, and picture completion. Profile of mood status scores averaged 26.8 in terbutaline-exposed, 52 in mold exposed, and 26 in unexposed.