Daily Archives: June 7, 2012

Press Spin: Prozac-Contaminated Drinking Water May Be Link to Autism

A healthy skepticism is a good attitude to have when reading news headlines like these (click here). Clearly, this writer and these researchers do not understand ecotoxicology, at least with respect to a basic principle…..body weight does make a big difference, meaning that fish toxicity studies do not extrapolate to humans……they try to make a link via gene expression, however, was Idiopathic autism diagnosed in the fish? An interesting idea, but this hypothesis has a long way to go….

Thomas, M.A. and Klaper, R.D. (2012) Psychoactive Pharmaceuticals Induce Fish Gene Expression Profiles Associated with Human Idiopathic Autism. PLoS ONE 7(6):e32917.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032917

Idiopathic autism, caused by genetic susceptibility interacting with unknown environmental triggers, has increased dramatically in the past 25 years. Identifying environmental triggers has been difficult due to poorly understood pathophysiology and subjective definitions of autism. The use of antidepressants by pregnant women has been associated with autism. These and other unmetabolized psychoactive pharmaceuticals (UPPs) have also been found in drinking water from surface sources, providing another possible exposure route and raising questions about human health consequences. Here, we examined gene expression patterns of fathead minnows treated with a mixture of three psychoactive pharmaceuticals (fluoxetine, venlafaxine & carbamazepine) in dosages intended to be similar to the highest observed conservative estimates of environmental concentrations. We conducted microarray experiments examining brain tissue of fish exposed to individual pharmaceuticals and a mixture of all three. We used gene-class analysis to test for enrichment of gene sets involved with ten human neurological disorders. Only sets associated with idiopathic autism were unambiguously enriched. We found that UPPs induce autism-like gene expression patterns in fish. Our findings suggest a new potential trigger for idiopathic autism in genetically susceptible individuals involving an overlooked source of environmental contamination.

Click here for the full paper (open source).