New study finds significant elevation of mercury and lead with a decrease in the selenium levels in red blood cells of patients with autism.
Relationship between selenium, lead, and mercury in red blood cells of Saudi autistic children.
El-Ansary, Bjørklund G, Tinkov AA, Skalny AV, Al Dera H.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Environmental contribution to ASD is due in large part to the sensitivity of the developing brain to external exposures such as lead (Pb), and mercury (Hg) as toxic heavy metals or due to a poor detoxification ability as the phenotype of this disorder. Selenium (Se) as an antioxidant element that counteracts the neurotoxicity of Hg, and Pb, presumably through the formation of nontoxic complexes. In the present study, Pb, Hg, and Se were measured in red blood cells (RBCs) of 35 children with ASD and 30 age- and gender-matched healthy control children using atomic absorption spectrometry. Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analysis of the obtained data was performed to measure the predictive value of their absolute and relative concentrations. The obtained data demonstrates a significant elevation of Hg and Pb together with a significant decrease in the Se levels in RBCs of patients with ASD when compared to the healthy controls. The ratios of Se to both Pb and Hg were remarkably altered, being indicative of heavy metal neurotoxicity in patients with ASD. In conclusion, the present study indicates the importance of Se for prevention and/or therapy of heavy metal neurotoxicity.