Researchers found that kids whose parents or siblings had been diagnosed with schizophrenia were almost three times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, including autism and Asperger syndrome.
The link was weaker for bipolar disorder, but still consistent, according to findings published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“Most people with a family history of one of these disorders actually get nothing – the vast majority in fact,” said Dr. Patrick Sullivan, the study’s lead author from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Still, he told Reuters Health, “Maybe there is something that is more fundamental but common to both,” such as certain changes in gene patterns that are passed from parents to children.
The number of autism diagnoses in the United States has been rising, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates one in 88 kids has an autism spectrum disorder. That’s up from one in 150 a decade ago.
One of the questions in recent autism research has been how much genetics is involved in who gets the condition, versus the prenatal or early childhood environment.