Study to find out about autism in Seychelles


29-December-2008

The Ministry of Health and Social Development is to run the project as part of the Seychelles Child Development Study, a continuing research partnership between the ministry, the Ministry of Education and the universities of Rochester and Ulster.

Autism is a disability that appears in childhood, and there is growing international concern that it is becoming more frequent in some countries, the health ministry said.

It is estimated that one in 150 children in the USA will develop some form of autism. Its causes are not known and are likely to be a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.

Some people have suggested that autism might be related to exposure to mercury before birth. There is no proof of such a link and many scientists do not believe mercury has any role in causing autism.

At present there is no evidence that autism is any more common in Seychelles than in other places, the ministry stressed.

Over the past 20 years, the Child Development Study has been looking at the effects on children’s development of their mothers’ diet during pregnancy and from exposure to mercury from fish.

In the early years of the study, the scientists leading the research collected hair samples from more than 4,000 pregnant women. These women are now being invited to complete a questionnaire about their child, from which the scientists will be able to determine whether a child has a higher risk of autism.

Thus, the research will provide information on how common autism might be in Seychelles and also whether there might be a link between diet in pregnancy and the development of autism in the child.

The research will be carried out at the Child Development Centre and in the district health centres.

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