U.S. researchers have determined later-life diseases resulting from fetal and infant toxicity have common immune patterns.

Cornell University scientist Rodney Dietert and his wife, Janice, report conducting the first comprehensive review of later-life diseases that develop in people who were exposed to environmental toxins or drugs either in the womb or as infants.

They found most of the diseases have two things in common: they involve an imbalance in the immune system and exaggerated inflammatory reactions at the cellular level.

Rodney Dietert, a professor of immunotoxicology, and his wife, who works at Performance Plus Consulting in Lansing, N.Y., found nearly all chronic diseases associated with developmental immunotoxicity, or DIT, share the same type of immunological damage.

Diseases linked to DIT include asthma, allergy, autoimmunity, cancer, cerebral palsy, atherosclerosis, hypertension and male sterility.

Toxins known to cause developmental immune problems in fetuses and neonates, according to the Dieterts, include herbicides, pesticides, alcohol, heavy metals, maternal smoking, diesel exhaust and polychlorinated biphenyls.

The research appeared in a recent issue of the journal Current Medicinal Chemistry and was presented last month in Charlotte, N.C., during the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology.