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Relation of childhood gastrointestinal disorders to autism: nested case-control study using data from the UK General Practice Research Database

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 24 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:419
  1. Corri Black (cxb2{at}, research associate,
  2. James A Kaye, senior epidemiologist,
  3. Hershel Jick, associate professor of medicine.
  1. Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program, Boston University School of Medicine, MA 02421, USA
  1. Correspondence to: C Black
  • Accepted 20 June 2002


Objectives: To assess whether children with autism are more likely to have a history of gastrointestinal disorders than children without autism.

Design: Nested case-control study.

Setting: UK General Practice Research Database.

Subjects: Children born after 1 January 1988 and registered with the General Practice Research Database within 6 months of birth.

Outcome measures: Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, coeliac disease, food intolerance, and recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms recorded by the general practitioner.

Results: 9 of 96 (9%) children with a diagnosis of autism (cases) and 41 of 449 (9%) children without autism (matched controls) had a history of gastrointestinal disorders before the index date (the date of first recorded diagnosis of autism in the cases and the same date for controls). The estimated odds ratio for a history of gastrointestinal disorders among children with autism compared with children without autism was 1.0 (95% confidence interval 0.5 to 2.2).

Conclusions: No evidence was found that children with autism were more likely than children without autism to have had defined gastrointestinal disorders at any time before their diagnosis of autism.


  • The Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program is supported in part by grants from AstraZeneca, Berlex Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffmann-La Roche, Ingenix Pharmaceutical Services, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, LLC, Pharmacia Corporation, and Novartis Farmacéutica. This study was not funded.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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