Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 1047–1054 | Cite as

The positive association between elevated blood lead levels and brain-specific autoantibodies in autistic children from low lead-polluted areas

  • Gehan Ahmed MostafaEmail author
  • Geir Bjørklund
  • Mauricio A. Urbina
  • Laila Yousef Al-Ayadhi
Original Article


The underlying pathogenic mechanism in autoimmune disorders is the formation of autoantibodies. In children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it has been documented increased levels of brain-specific autoantibodies. Furthermore, lead (Pb) has been identified as one of the main neurotoxicants acting as environmental triggers for ASD as it induces neuroinflammation and autoimmunity. The present study is the first to explore a potential relationship between the levels of blood lead (BPb) and seropositivity of anti-ribosomal P protein antibodies in ASD children. Levels of BPb and serum anti-ribosomal P protein antibodies were measured in 60 children with ASD and 60 healthy control matched children, aged between 5 and 12 years, recruited from low Pb-polluted areas. The levels of BPb were significantly higher in ASD children than in healthy control children (P < 0.001). Patients with ASD had significantly higher frequency of increased BPb levels 10 μg/dL (43.3 %) than healthy control children (13.3 %; P < 0.001). There were significant and positive correlations between the levels of BPb, and the values of Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) (P < 0.01) and IQ in children with ASD (P < 0.001). Patients with ASD showing increased levels of BPb had significantly higher frequency of seropositivity of anti-ribosomal P antibodies (92.3 %) than patients with normal BPb levels (32.3 %; P < 0.001). The findings of the present study suggest that increased levels of BPb in some children with ASD may trigger the production of serum anti-ribosomal P antibodies. Further research is warranted to determine if the production of brain autoantibodies is triggered by environmental Pb exposure in children with ASD. The possible therapeutic role of Pb chelators in ASD children should also be studied.


Anti-ribosomal P protein antibodies Autism Autoimmunity Blood lead Cognitive function 



This research project was supported by a grant from the Research Center of the Center for Female Scientific and Medical Colleges, Deanship of Scientific Research, King Saud University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gehan Ahmed Mostafa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Geir Bjørklund
    • 3
  • Mauricio A. Urbina
    • 4
  • Laila Yousef Al-Ayadhi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of MedicineAin Shams UniversityCairoEgypt
  2. 2.Department of Physiology, Autism Research and Treatment Center, AL-Amodi Autism Research Chair, Faculty of MedicineKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Council for Nutritional and Environmental MedicineMo i RanaNorway
  4. 4.Departamento de Zoología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y OceanográficasUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile

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