Frequency of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Association with Family History of Autoimmune Disease

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ABSTRACT.This is a cross-sectional study that compares lifetime prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) and children with typical development and with other developmental disabilities (DDs) and examines the association of GI symptoms with a family history of autoimmune disease. A structured interview was performed in 50 children with ASD and 2 control groups matched for age, sex, and ethnicity-50 with typical development and 50 with other DDs. Seventy-four percent were boys with a mean age of 7.6 years (SD, ±3.6). A history of GI symptoms was elicited in 70% of children with ASD compared with 28% of children with typical development (p <.001) and 42% of children with DD (p =.03). Abnormal stool pattern was more common in children with ASD (18%) than controls (typical development: 4%, p =.039; DD: 2%, p =.021). Food selectivity was also higher in children with ASD (60%) compared with those with typical development (22%, p =.001) and DD (36%, p =.023). Family history of autoimmune disease was reported in 38% of the ASD group and 34% of controls and was not associated with a differential rate of GI symptoms. In the multivariate analysis, autism (adjusted odds ratio (OR), 3.8; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7-11.2) and food selectivity (adjusted OR, 4.1; 95% CI, 1.8-9.1) were associated with GI symptoms. Children with ASD have a higher rate of GI symptoms than children with either typical development or other DDs. In this study, there was no association between a family history of autoimmune disease and GI symptoms in children with ASD.

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