Notice of Special Interest: Advancing Research in Gastrointestinal Dysfunction in People with Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Gastrointestinal (GI) complications in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders have drawn attention to gaps in understanding their causes and treatment. GI dysfunction is particularly common in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, Fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome, as well as chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome. GI disorders in these conditions can include gut malformations present at birth (such as pyloric stenosis or Hirschsprung disease) but also functional issues such as feeding problems, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), cyclic vomiting, delayed gastric emptying, diarrhea, bloating, celiac disease, irritable bowel symptoms, and constipation leading to encopresis, incontinence, and stool impaction. These GI issues may be associated with severe nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, and failure to thrive. GI symptoms are reported in between 23-70% of individuals with autism, a rate ~ 8 times higher than in the general population, with similar rates in individuals with other less common forms of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) (Holingue et al., Autism Res 2018:11:24-36). Unfortunately, mechanisms to accurately diagnose GI conditions in this population are limited, and tailored treatments to address them are almost nonexistent, particularly since clinical trials for IDD populations are rare.
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