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  1. #1 Antidepressants in water trigger autism genes in fish 
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    Jun 2008

    Low levels of antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs in water supplies can trigger the expression of genes associated with autism in fish at least.

    The use of antidepressants has increased dramatically over the past 25 years, says Michael Thomas of Idaho State University in Pocatello. Around 80 per cent of each drug passes straight through the human body without being broken down, and so they are present in waste water. In most communities, water purification systems cannot filter out these pharmaceuticals. "They just fly right through," says Thomas, which means they ultimately find their way into the water supply.

    The concentration of these drugs in drinking water is very low at most, they are present at levels several orders of magnitude lower than the prescription doses. But since the drugs are specifically designed to act on the nervous system, Thomas hypothesised that even a small dose could affect a developing fetus.

    Thomas's group created a cocktail of the anti-epileptic drug carbamazepine and two selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, fluoxetine and venlafaxine, at this low concentration. They exposed fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to the drugs for 18 days, then analysed the genes that were being expressed in the fishes' brains.

    Although the researchers had expected the drugs might activate genes involved in all kinds of neurological disorders, only 324 genes associated with autism in humans appeared to be significantly altered. Most of these genes are involved in early brain development and wiring.

    The finding fits with previous research which had found that pregnant women who take SSRIs are slightly more likely to have autistic children. (Archives of General Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.73).

    To test whether these changes actually altered the fish's behaviour, the researchers did an experiment in which they startled the fish. Fish exposed to the drugs tended to panic and behave differently from a control group of fish.

    Thomas emphasises that the research is very preliminary there's no need for pregnant women to worry about their drinking water yet, he says. The researchers next plan to study whether the drugs have a similar effect in mammals. They are testing this by lacing the drinking water of pregnant mice with the low-concentration cocktail. They are also studying water supplies in areas around the country where there are particularly high concentrations of drugs to determine whether the fish and people in these areas have autism-like gene expression patterns.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Gina's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Western MI
    That's a pretty interesting study. I'm glad to see they're going after something other than vaccines for a change.

    No wonder I'm so depressed, I drink bottled water. *run away*
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  3. #3  
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    May 2012
    I have a son with "mild" autism. (You wouldn't know it unless you really looked for it, but he's been clinically diagnosed.)

    I also used to work at an assisted-living home where old or contaminated meds were regularly and lawfully disposed of down the toilet (though I think the practice has changed by law recently to dry disposal in bags with activated charcoal -- I may not have the details right).

    Makes you wonder...
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  4. #4  
    Power CUer noonwitch's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
    Warren, MI
    This is a fascinating possibility. Is there a higher rate of autism in large, urban and suburban communities with large water systems, vs. small communities with small systems or communities with well water?

    As a social worker, I find autism to be absolutely fascinating, and I find autistic kids for the most part to be fun to work with because they perceive things differently than the majority of society. I value the time I spend with kids who are diagnosed with autism, especially those who are verbal and willing to converse with me.

    I'm not saying that autistic people are always wonderful and perfect, but I do think that because their brains interpret visual and auditory stimuli different than the way most of society does, they sometimes offer valuable insight into situations that the rest of us can't.
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  5. #5  
    PORCUS STAPHUS ADMIN Rockntractor's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    As long as it doesn't change the flavor of the fish i'm okay with it.

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