Researchers have said that since autism has many different genetic forms, the term “autisms” is a more appropriate term to use than the singular term.
Study researcher Stephen Scherer, the director of the Center for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and colleagues had earlier identified over 100 genetic mutations that may make a person more susceptible to the disorder.
Findings from their study published in the journal Nature Medicine on Jan. 26 reveals that even brothers and sisters who are diagnosed with autism do not always have the same autism-linked genes, Tech Times reported.
The researchers in particular discovered that two-thirds of siblings with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, have different genetic changes that show genes associated with autism could vary among family members despite being genetically similar.
Scherer added that when a family has a child diagnosed with autism, doctors traditionally solely focus on the gene linked with the child’s autism to predict if another child from the same family could also be at risk. He said that the study could lead to improved diagnosis and earlier treatment for children who are genetically predisposed towards developing the disorder.
“We believe a better term to use is ‘the autisms,’ or ‘the autism spectrum disorders’ (that is, plural),” Dr. Scherer told Reuters. “There are many different forms of autism. In other words, autism is more of a collection of different disorders that have a common clinical manifestation.”
Scherer and his colleagues studied 85 pairs of siblings with ASD and their parents. They found that only 36 of those 85 families had mutations that can be associated with genes that are already linked to ASD. When they further looked at these 36 families, the researchers found that only a third of the siblings have the same mutation showing that their kids have different forms of autism and treatment methods will vary.
“Our study emphasizes that substantial genetic heterogeneity exists in ASD, necessitating the use of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to delineate all genic and non-genic susceptibility variants in research and in clinical diagnostics,” the researchers wrote.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in 68 children in the U.S. have ASD, a condition where difficulty communicating with others and repetitive and obsessive are prevalent.