Psychiatric drugs in drinking water cause autism

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Residues of psychotropic drugs in drinking water triggers autism?

Contamination of drinking water with psychotropic drugs can trigger autism. The US researchers led by Michael Thomas from the Institute of Biological Sciences at the Idaho State University School came to this conclusion in a comprehensive study of fish.

The number of autism diseases has increased significantly in the past 25 years due to an increased genetic susceptibility in interaction with previously largely unknown environmental triggers, the US scientists report in the specialist magazine "PLoS ONE". Michael Thomas and colleagues have now identified the contamination of drinking water with psychotropic drugs as one of the possible causes.

Antidepressants already known to trigger autism It has long been known that the use of antidepressants during pregnancy can trigger autism in the offspring. As part of their study, the US researchers have now investigated the question of whether this also applies to the psychotropic drug concentrations in drinking water. In particular, the "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and the serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)" are suspected as triggering autism, the US researchers report. As "source of exposure to antidepressants", "raw sewage, wastewater from sewage treatment plants, sewers, rivers downstream from such plants, and ultimately drinking water" were named, the US scientists report. Because the concentrations are so low, the health consequences have so far been controversial, Michael Thomas and colleagues continue.

In order to determine the possible connection between the concentration of psychotropic drugs in drinking water and the risk of autism, the researchers therefore carried out a study on young fish (minnows), in which the water in the animals' pools had two antidepressants (fluoxetine, venlafaxine) and an anti-epileptic (carbamazepine) has been added. The concentrations of the psychotropic drugs corresponded to the "highest conservative estimates of environmental concentrations," the US researchers continued.

Fish are exposed to psychoactive medicinal products According to Michael Thomas and colleagues, the young minnows are particularly suitable as a test organism, since their genetic expressions for autism and other neurological disorders are similar to those of people who have been previously exposed to them. Over a period of 18 days, five fish were exposed to the psychotropic drugs in three pools with around 7.5 liters of water. Three other pools, each with five fish and unpolluted water, served as a control group. The dosage of the three different psychotropic drugs that were added to the water was ten to 100 micrograms per liter. After the 18-day trial period, the researchers examined the minnow's gene expression pattern and noticed numerous abnormalities in the gene sections that are associated with diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The mix of the "three psychoactive drugs (fluoxetine, venlafaxine and carbamazepine) in doses similar to the highest conservative estimates of environmental concentrations," caused fish gene expression typical of autism, the US scientists report.

Health risk from residues of medicinal products in drinking water It was astonishing that even relatively small residues of psychotropic drugs in drinking water had favored the genetic changes, Michael Thomas and colleagues continued. "We were amazed that these drugs can trigger autism in very low doses, such as those found in water," write the US scientists in the "PLoS ONE" article. The fact that psychopharmaceuticals have been so diluted in fish has triggered such significant changes is indeed a matter of concern. Because this suggests that the usual residues of medicinal products in drinking water could also lead to comparable impairments. Although the drinking water values ​​of the psychotropic drugs are usually ten to one hundred times lower than the concentrations in the test series, the study results suggest that a new potential trigger for autism in genetically susceptible people has been discovered here, emphasized Thomas and colleagues. The psychotropic drug residues in drinking water should be assessed as environmental factors that promote the occurrence of autism.

Further studies on environmental triggers of autism required The change in gene expression observed in the minnows is, according to Michael Thomas, certainly transferable to humans, since the genes affected are the same as those in people with an inherited autism predisposition. However, based on the current study results, no conclusions can be drawn about the risk of illness for people without the appropriate predisposition. This would need to be investigated further in further studies, similar to the risk of autism at lower doses of psychotropic drugs. According to the US researchers, the breakdown products of the drugs should also be taken into account in future studies, since these could also possibly increase the risk of autism. The same applies to psychotropic drugs that have so far not been considered in the study. In the next step, the US scientists believe that experiments with mice or epidemiological studies are a good way to check the results to date. (fp)

Read on:
American drinking water contaminated with chrome
German drinking water receives top marks very well
Lithium in drinking water lowers the suicide rate
Medicinal residues in drinking water
Increased use of psychotropic drugs in children

Picture: Paul Golla /

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Video: Autism and the difficulty of classification


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