An intriguing association: Gestational infection and cerebral palsy in offspring.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 1.21.36 PMIt should come as no surprise to any of our readers that ACSH is unabashedly in favor of vaccinations, and appalled by groups and individuals that promote completely baseless and dangerous fears of vaccines. It is not a question of whether this paranoid mentality has cost lives, rather, how many children have died as a result of this ignorant, fearful mindset.

We have also been pressuring New York State to make flu vaccination mandatory for all healthcare workers. Although we have not yet managed to accomplish this, we will keep trying.

A new study may make our job a bit easier. Pregnant women, who are often afraid to receive the influenza vaccine may now be even more afraid of not doing so. Why? Because a large study of the incidence of cerebral palsy (CP) in newborn babies has uncovered a significant correlation between maternal infection as measured by the presence of pathogens in amniotic fluid and the risk of the baby developing this highly disabling condition.

Dr. Joshua Bear and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, reported on a study during a presentation at the annual meeting of Pediatric Academic Societies in which his group analyzed the birth records of over 6 million newborns who were born between 1991 and 2001, and their mothers during their pregnancies, as well as those of all children who received services for cerebral palsy from the California Department of Developmental Services through 2006.

Chorioamnionitis an inflammation of the fetal and placental membranes caused by various microbial infections occurs in about 2 percent of all births in the United States and is one of the causes of premature delivery. This condition resulted in a four-fold increase of CP in preterm neonates and a two-fold increase in normal term babies. All of these data were derived from mothers who had been hospitalized for chorioamnionitis.

Both urinary tract and respiratory infections gave rise to a two-fold increase in CP.

Dr. Bear said, "This suggests that there s some interaction between chorioamnionitis and presence of birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen), although the nature of that interaction is unclear."

Although there were limitations to the study, such as inconsistent coding and the presence of comorbidities (other illnesses), Dr. Dr. Lee M. Sanders, co director of the Center for Policy, Outcomes, and Prevention at Stanford said, [These findings can also] help us with public health interventions, such as better rates of influenza vaccinations among pregnant women."

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross commented, While influenza is not the first infection one thinks of when discussing pregnancy-related problems, it is among the more commonly acquired infections and, moreover, is one of the few susceptible to prevention before any evidence of the illness has manifested. Even better, studies have shown, repeatedly, that women who have received the flu vaccine have better outcomes, both themselves and among their newborns. In a more general tenor, signs and symptoms of gestational infection should be vigorously elicited and aggressively treated, given these new data related to the feared complication, cerebral palsy.