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Prenatal Exposure to Illness May Raise Epilepsy Risk

Babies whose mothers had cystitis, coughs or diarrhea are more likely to be epileptic

MONDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Prenatal exposure to a range of maternal infections, including vaginal yeast infections, cystitis, pyelonephritis, diarrhea and cough, is associated with an increased risk for epilepsy, according to the results of a study published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Yuelian Sun, M.D., of the University of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark, and colleagues conducted a study of 90,619 singletons born between 1997 and 2003 who were followed up to the end of 2005. Mothers provided information about infections during pregnancy gathered using computer-assisted interviews during and after pregnancy.

In the cohort, there were 646 children diagnosed with epilepsy. Preterm babies were at higher risk for epilepsy if their mothers had had a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy, and those whose mothers had a cough lasting more than a week were at higher risk of epilepsy in the first year of life, the researchers found. Overall, there was an association between increased risk of epilepsy and a range of maternal infections.

"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 authors write. "Additional investigation is warranted and studies based on valid biological markers of infection in longitudinal study are of particular interest."

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