Autism risk may be spotted at birth by examining placentas for abnormalities, new research suggests.

"We can look at the placenta at birth and determine the chance of being at risk for autism with extremely high reliability," said Dr. Harvey Kliman, a research scientist at Yale University.

One of 88 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder, the umbrella name for complex brain development disorders marked by problems with social interaction and communication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The earlier autism is treated, the better the outcome. But children typically aren't diagnosed until behavioral symptoms begin, perhaps at age 2 or 3 years, or even later. Kliman said the children identified as at risk at birth might benefit from early treatment.

The study is online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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