Investigating the Fever Effect on Children with Autism

May 15, 2023

New Finding Shows Kids Exposed to Maternal Immune Activation and Later GI Dysfunction May Experience Behavioral Improvements During Fever Episodes

Israeli scientists recently set out to investigate the intriguing fever effect phenomenon that some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display. When neurotypical people develop a fever, they typically feel achy, tired, and grumpy. However, for some children with autism, a fever makes them feel better to the point where they become more social and alert. To learn more about this situation, the authors studied fevers that focused on the medical characteristics of probands (i.e., the first person in a family identified as possibly having a genetic disorder) and their family members. They discovered a strong association between familial characteristics, which may show an inherited or genetic component of fever response in ASD.  Notably, this research provides the first evidence that children with ASD exposed to maternal immune activation in utero and subsequently developed comorbid GI dysfunction are likelier to show improved behaviors during fever episodes. The authors suggest that pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-17, IL-6, and IL-2 pathways could be the reason behind this fever response. They also found that the fever effect may not only appear in autism but also other neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The current study’s findings suggest that future research should focus on circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine dynamics and their relations to fever and behavioral changes in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. These studies could advance the development of targeted treatment options for this ASD subtype and other immune-mediated neurodevelopmental disorders.

Original Study

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