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Early identification and diagnosis is beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Universal early screening is recommended by many experts, but disputed because evidence is limited, and sensitivity and specificity in general populations are largely unknown.
To estimate the sensitivity and specificity of early population-based screening for ASDs.
The study was based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The 36-month cohort questionnaire included the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), a 40-item screening instrument for ASD.
A total of 58 520 mothers (58%) responded to the questionnaire. By the end of follow-up on 31 December 2015, 385 (0.7%) individuals with ASD had been identified among the responders' children. The distributions of SCQ scores in those with ASD and other children had large degrees of overlap. With the cut-off of 15 recommended in the SCQ manual, screening sensitivity was 20% (95% CI 16–24) for ASD overall. For children with ASD who had not developed phrase speech at 36 months, sensitivity was 46% (95% CI 35–57%), whereas it was 13% (95% CI 9–17) for children with ASD with phrase speech. Screening specificity was 99% (95% CI 99–99). With the currently recommended cut-off of 11, sensitivity increased to 42% for ASD overall (95% CI 37–47), 69% (95% CI 58–79) for ASD without phrase speech and 34% (95% CI 29–40) for ASD with phrase speech. Specificity was then reduced to 89% (95% CI 89–90).
Early ASD screening with a parent checklist had low sensitivity. It identified mainly individuals with ASD with significant developmental delay and captured very few children with ASD with cognitive skills in the normal range. Increasing sensitivity was not possible without severely compromising specificity.
Declaration of interest
C.L. receives royalty for the Social Communication Questionnaire, which she has co-authored.
We explored the course of broadly defined eating disorders during pregnancy in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
A total of 41 157 pregnant women, enrolled at approximately 18 weeks' gestation, had valid data from the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry. We collected questionnaire-based diagnostic information on broadly defined anorexia nervosa (AN), and bulimia nervosa (BN), and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). EDNOS subtypes included binge eating disorder (BED) and recurrent self-induced purging in the absence of binge eating (EDNOS-P). We explored rates of remission, continuation and incidence of BN, BED and EDNOS-P during pregnancy.
Prepregnancy prevalence estimates were 0·1% for AN, 0·7% for BN, 3·5% for BED and 0·1% for EDNOS-P. During early pregnancy, estimates were 0·2% (BN), 4·8% (BED) and 0·1% (EDNOS-P). Proportions of individuals remitting during pregnancy were 78% (EDNOS-P), 40% (BN purging), 39% (BED), 34% (BN any type) and 29% (BN non-purging type). Additional individuals with BN achieved partial remission. Incident BN and EDNOS-P during pregnancy were rare. For BED, the incidence rate was 1·1 per 1000 person-weeks, equating to 711 new cases of BED during pregnancy. Incident BED was associated with indices of lower socio-economic status.
Pregnancy appears to be a catalyst for remission of some eating disorders but also a vulnerability window for the new onset of broadly defined BED, especially in economically disadvantaged individuals. Vigilance by health-care professionals for continuation and emergence of eating disorders in pregnancy is warranted.
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