Characterizing the interplay between autism spectrum disorder and comorbid medical conditions: An integrative review

Charlotte Tye*, Abigail K. Runicles, Andrew J.O. Whitehouse, Gail A. Alvares

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Co-occurring medical disorders and associated physiological abnormalities in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may provide insight into causal pathways or underlying biological mechanisms. Here, we review medical conditions that have been repeatedly highlighted as sharing the strongest associations with ASD-epilepsy, sleep, as well as gastrointestinal and immune functioning. We describe within each condition their prevalence, associations with behavior, and evidence for successful treatment. We additionally discuss research aiming to uncover potential aetiological mechanisms. We then consider the potential interaction between each group of conditions and ASD and, based on the available evidence, propose a model that integrates these medical comorbidities in relation to potential shared aetiological mechanisms. Future research should aim to systematically examine the interactions between these physiological systems, rather than considering these in isolation, using robust and sensitive biomarkers across an individual's development. A consideration of the overlap between medical conditions and ASD may aid in defining biological subtypes within ASD and in the development of specific targeted interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number751
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Comorbidity
  • Epilepsy
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Immune function
  • Sleep


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