The frequency of zinc deficiency, copper toxicity and low zinc/copper in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may indicate decrement in metallothionein system functioning. A retrospective review of plasma zinc, serum copper and zinc/copper was performed on data from 230 children with autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-NOS and Asperger's syndrome. The entire cohort's mean zinc level was 77.2 microg dl(-1), mean copper level was 131.5 microg dl(-1), and mean Zn/Cu was 0.608, which was below the 0.7 cut-off of the lowest 2.5% of healthy children. The plasma zinc/serum copper ratio may be a biomarker of heavy metal, particularly mercury, toxicity in children with ASDs.
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