Purpose: Various gastrointestinal factors may contribute to maladaptive behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). To determine the association between maladaptive behavior in children with ASD and gastrointestinal symptoms such as severity, intestinal microbiota, inflammation, enterocyte damage, permeability and absorption of opioid peptides.
Methods: This observational cross-sectional study compared children with ASD to healthy controls, aged 2-10 years. Maladaptive behavior was classified using the Approach Withdrawal Problems Composite subtest of the Pervasive Developmental Disorder Behavior Inventory. Dependent variables were gastrointestinal symptom severity index, fecal calprotectin, urinary D-lactate, urinary lactulose/mannitol excretion, urinary intestinal fatty acids binding protein (I-FABP) and urinary opioid peptide excretion.
Results: We did not find a significant difference between children with ASD with severe or mild maladaptive behavior and control subjects for gastrointestinal symptoms, fecal calprotectin, urinary D-lactate, and lactulose/mannitol ratio. Urinary opioid peptide excretion was absent in all children. Children with ASD with severe maladaptive behavior showed significantly higher urinary I-FABP levels compared to those with mild maladaptive behavior (p=0.019) and controls (p=0.015).
Conclusion: In our series, maladaptive behavior in ASD children was not associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, intestinal inflammation (no difference in calprotectin), microbiota (no difference in urinary D-lactate) and intestinal permeability (no difference in lactulose/manitol ratio). ASD children with severe maladaptive behavior have significantly more enterocyte damage (increased urinary I-FABP) than ASD children with mild maladaptive behavior and normal children.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Enterocyte damage; Intestinal inflammation; Intestinal permeability; Urinary opioids.