Gastrointestinal symptoms not linked to later autism

August 22, 2002

Children with autism are no more likely than children without autism to have had gastrointestinal disorders, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers at Boston University identified 96 children with autism from the UK General Practice Research Database between 1988 and 1999. Each case was matched with up to five children without autism. They also considered the time relation between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms among the cases.

They found no increase in a history of gastrointestinal disorders, coeliac disease, food intolerance, or recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms among children with autism compared with those without autism. They also found no temporal association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism.

The authors cannot exclude the possibility that some children in the study had subclinical gastrointestinal symptoms before their presentation with autistic behaviour. However, the children described by Wakefield and colleagues had symptomatic gastrointestinal disease.

They also cannot exclude the possibility that severe gastrointestinal disease may be associated with the development of autism in certain individuals. However, their results indicate that if this occurs, it is likely to be uncommon.

"Our results are consistent with those of other studies in providing evidence against a substantial association between gastrointestinal illness in children and the later development of autism," they conclude.
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BMJ

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