Background: Autism spectrum disorders are often idiopathic. Studies have suggested associations between immune response and these disorders. We explored associations between parental autoimmune disorders and children's diagnosis of autism by linking Swedish registries.
Methods: Data for each participant were linked across 3 Swedish registries. The study includes 1227 cases and 25 matched controls for each case (30,693 controls with parental linkage). Parental diagnoses comprised 19 autoimmune disorders. We estimated odds ratios (ORs) using multivariable conditional logistic regression.
Results: Parental autoimmune disorder was weakly associated with autism spectrum disorders in offspring (maternal OR = 1.6 [95% confidence interval = 1.1–2.2]; paternal OR = 1.4 [1.0–2.0]). Several maternal autoimmune diseases were correlated with autism. For both parents, rheumatic fever was associated with autism spectrum disorders.
Conclusions: These data support previously reported associations between parental autoimmune disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Parental autoimmune disorders may represent a critical pathway that warrants more detailed investigation.