Researchers in Australia believe a family history of Pink Disease, a form of mercury poisoning common during the early 20th century, could be a significant risk factor for developing autism spectrum disorder.
Studies at the Swinburne University of Technology found that the descendants of over 500 survivors of Pink Disease were statistically more likely to have autism.
"Staggeringly, we found that one in 25 grandchildren of pink disease survivors aged 6-12 had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," said associate professor David Austin.
"This compares to the current Australian prevalence rate for that age group of one in 160."
The study is significant in that it suggests autism may be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and a trigger, making it similar to some allergies, according to Professor Austin.
This comes shortly after the Guardian reported that Autism Friendly Films, a pilot project between Odeon and Dimensions, is helping to get children with autism to develop an interest in cinema.
Find out about Barchester's support for adults and children with a wide range of Autistic spectrum conditions.