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Low birth-weight babies 'at higher risk of autism'
Maternal and newborn health research has shown infants with a low birth-weight could be at higher risk of developing autism.
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School's of Nursing and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the US followed the lives of 862 kids delivered at weights of between 500g and 1,000g - or 4.4 pounds.
The infants were found to be five times more likely to develop autism than children of a normal birth-weight, with as many as five per cent of the youngsters studied suffering from the condition.
Jennifer Pinto-Martin, lead author of the paper, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, added that cognitive problems in premature kids could "mask underlying autism".
The scientist, who is the director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology at Penn Nursing, said: "As survival of the smallest and most immature babies improves, impaired survivors represent an increasing public health challenge."
A Washington University study recently found exposing premature infants to stress in neonatal intensive care units could cause problems with the development of their brain.
Posted by Carla MacKenzie