Based on a study on mice, researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School believe that when a mother experience infection, the associated immune response, driven by the Interleukin-17a molecule, can lead to behavioral symptoms in offspring.

The inflammatory molecules can act on the brain of the fetus and bring on ‘autism-like behavioral phenotypes such as social deficits’, according to Gloria Choi of MIT.

While the study has not yet been confirmed in humans, the researchers believe it may point towards a broader narrative of maternal infections during pregnancy explain both autism-spectrum disorders and common associated immune system problems.