Maternal Infection Linked to Increased Risk for Childhood Leukemia

There was no association observed for respiratory tract, digestive, or other infections.

HealthDay News — Maternal infection, especially genital and urinary tract infections, during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk for childhood leukemia in offspring, according to a study published online Feb. 20 in JAMA Network Open.

Jian-Rong He, D.Phil., from Guangzhou Medical University in China, and colleagues conducted a population-based cohort study using data for all live births in Denmark between 1978 and 2015 to examine the association of maternal infection during pregnancy with childhood leukemia among offspring. The findings were validated using Swedish registry data for all live births between 1988 and 2014.

A total of 2,222,797 children were included in the study. The researchers found that 1,307 children were diagnosed with leukemia during the approximately 27 million person-years of follow-up. Compared with offspring of mothers without infection, children born to mothers with infection during pregnancy had a significantly increased risk for leukemia (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.35). The risk for childhood leukemia was further increased in association with maternal genital and urinary tract infections (hazard ratios, 2.42 and 1.65, respectively). There was no association observed for respiratory tract, digestive, or other infections. Comparable estimates were seen in the sibling analysis and the whole-cohort analysis. No association was seen for maternal infection with brain tumors, lymphoma, or other childhood cancers.

“Given that little is known about the etiology of childhood leukemia, these findings suggest an important direction for research on the etiology of childhood leukemia as well as development of potential preventive measures,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Abstract/Full Text