NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Exposure to certain maternal infections in the womb increases the odds of epilepsy in childhood, according to an analysis of data from a Danish study. Among the infections cited were cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidney and upper urinary tract), and vaginal yeast infection.
“If some of these associations are causal, then they could be related to the infection itself or to its consequences, such as change in diet or dehydration, and possibly to its treatment,” the research team states.
The study, reported in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics, involved 90,619 infants born between September 1997 and June 2003 and followed through December 2005.
Lead researcher Dr. Yuelian Sun, from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and colleagues identified 646 children who were diagnosed with epilepsy during up to 8 years of follow-up.
Information about maternal infections was obtained via telephone interviews during pregnancy. Of the maternal conditions evaluated, cystitis, pyelonephritis, diarrhea, coughs lasting longer than 1 week, and vaginal yeast infection were all linked to epilepsy.
The relative risks ranged from 1.23 for diarrhea to 2.56 for vaginal yeast infections in preterm infants (yeast infections did not increase the risk in term infants). Prenatal exposure to cough increased the risk of epilepsy only during the first year of life.
By contrast, genital herpes, venereal warts, and herpes did not significantly increase the odds of epilepsy, the researchers report.
They say that long-term studies based on valid biological markers of infection would shed more light on the association between maternal infections and epilepsy risk.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, May 2008.