• autism;
  • autism spectrum disorders;
  • gut permeability;
  • lactulose/mannitol ratio


To test whether gut permeability is increased in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by evaluating gut permeability in a population-derived cohort of children with ASD compared with age- and intelligence quotient-matched controls without ASD but with special educational needs (SEN).

Patients and Methods

One hundred thirty-three children aged 10–14 years, 103 with ASD and 30 with SEN, were given an oral test dose of mannitol and lactulose and urine collected for 6 hr. Gut permeability was assessed by measuring the urine lactulose/mannitol (L/M) recovery ratio by electrospray mass spectrometry-mass spectrometry. The ASD group was subcategorized for comparison into those without (n = 83) and with (n = 20) regression.


There was no significant difference in L/M recovery ratio (mean (95% confidence interval)) between the groups with ASD: 0.015 (0.013–0.018), and SEN: 0.014 (0.009–0.019), nor in lactulose, mannitol, or creatinine recovery. No significant differences were observed in any parameter for the regressed versus non-regressed ASD groups. Results were consistent with previously published normal ranges. Eleven children (9/103 = 8.7% ASD and 2/30 = 6.7% SEN) had L/M recovery ratio > 0.03 (the accepted normal range cut-off), of whom two (one ASD and one SEN) had more definitely pathological L/M recovery ratios > 0.04.


There is no statistically significant group difference in small intestine permeability in a population cohort-derived group of children with ASD compared with a control group with SEN. Of the two children (one ASD and one SEN) with an L/M recovery ratio of > 0.04, one had undiagnosed asymptomatic celiac disease (ASD) and the other (SEN) past extensive surgery for gastroschisis. Autism Res 2014, 7: 305–313. © 2013 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.