Hydrogen breath test to detect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a prevalence case-control study in autism

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018 Feb;27(2):233-240. doi: 10.1007/s00787-017-1039-2. Epub 2017 Aug 10.


The aim of this study is to assess the prevalence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) by hydrogen breath test in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with respect to a consistent control group. From 2011 to 2013, 310 children with ASD and 1240 sex- and age-matched typical children were enrolled in this study to undergo glucose breath test. The study participants were considered to exhibit SIBO when an increase in H2 of ≥20 ppm or CH4 of ≥10 ppm with respect to the fasting value was observed up to 60 min after the ingestion of glucose. Ninety-six children with autism suffered from SIBO, giving a prevalence rate of SIBO was 31.0% (95% CI 25.8-36.1%). In contrast, 9.3% of the typical children acknowledged SIBO. The difference between groups was statistically significant (P < 0.0001). The median Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) score in the children with autism and with SIBO was significantly high when compared with the children without autism and without SIBO [98 (IQR, 45-120) vs. 63 (32-94), P < 0.001]. For the autism group, the 6-GI Severity Index (6-GSI) score was found to be strongly and significantly correlated with the total ATEC score (r = 0.639, P < 0.0001). SIBO was significantly associated with worse symptoms of autism, demonstrating that children with SIBO may significantly contribute to symptoms of autism.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Chinese; Hydrogen glucose breath test; Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Bacterial Infections / diagnosis*
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / metabolism*
  • Intestine, Small / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Prevalence


  • Hydrogen