Premature babies born at a low-birth weight appear to have an increased risk for autism, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found that premature female babies had an even greater risk for autism than male babies.
Scientists with the CDC examined 565 children in Atlanta born from 1986 to 1993 with autism and compared them with children from a control group.
The study found that boy's born at a birth weight of lower than 5.5 pounds had a 2.3-fold increased risk for autism. Girls had a three times or even a higher risk for developing autism.
The scientists also found that low-birth weight and early preterm birth affected groups of children differently, depending on whether they had autism alone or autism and other developmental disabilities.
CDC researchers say this is the first study to look at how gender affects the risk for autism. The findings are published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.