Urinary Porphyrins in Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Janet K. Kern
  • David A. Geier
  • Lisa Sykes
  • Mark Geier


Measuring toxic metal body burden is particularly important in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because evidence indicates that children with ASD have a greater susceptibility to heavy-metal intoxication than typically developing children. The more traditional laboratory tests used to measure toxic metal levels in ASD provide a snapshot of current exposure but do not necessarily provide a measure of tissue body burden. A more recent approach is to use urinary porphyrins which provide an indirect measure of toxic metal body burden. Urinary porphyrins are not a direct measure of toxic metals in the urine but a measure of tissue body burden by the level of disruption of the heme synthesis pathway caused by the presence of toxic metals in the tissues. Recent evidence suggests that the levels of mercury-associated porphyrins are different in children with ASD as compared to controls, with significantly increased levels of pentacarboxyporphyrin (5cxP), precoproporphyrins (prcP), and coproporphyrins (cP). In addition, there is a significant relationship between the severity of the child’s autism symptoms and the elevation of mercury-associated urinary porphyrins (i.e., the higher the mercury-associated porphyrins, the more severely affected the child). The mercury-associated porphyrins can be lowered with chelation therapy, and porphyrin profile testing can be used in clinical medicine in the targeted treatment of heavy-metal toxicity.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Body Burden Chelation Therapy Autism Symptom Severity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet K. Kern
    • 1
  • David A. Geier
    • 1
  • Lisa Sykes
    • 2
  • Mark Geier
    • 1
  1. 1.The Institute of Chronic Illnesses, IncSilver SpringUSA
  2. 2.The Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD, Inc.)RichmondUSA

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