Autism in Children and Correlates in Lebanon: A Pilot Case-Control Study

Aline Hamadé, Pascale Salameh, Myrna Medlej-Hashim, Elie Hajj-Moussa, Nina Saadallah-Zeidan, Francine Rizk


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder typically appearing before the age of three. The exact cause of autism remains uncertain, and several factors may be involved in its onset: genetic factors and possible environmental factors. The aim of this study was to assess the correlates of autism in the Lebanese population.

Methods: We investigated the association of autism with several factors in 86 autism cases from specialized schools for children with developmental disabilities and 172 control children from regular public schools in the same regions. Several risk factors for autism were investigated after comparison with a cohort control on parental age, sex, maternal unhappy feeling during pregnancy, consanguineous marriage, and province of residence. The Chi-square test was used to compare nominal variables, and Fisher exact test was used in case expected values within cells were inferior to five. For quantitative variables, we used t-test to compare means between two groups, after checking their distribution normality. For multivariate analysis, we used a forward stepwise likelihood ratio logistic regression.

Results: We observed male predominance (79.1%) among autistic infants. There was a significant association between autism and older parents age (OR=1.27), male sex (OR=3.38), unhappy maternal feeling during pregnancy (OR=5.77), living close to industry (OR=6.58), previous childhood infection (OR=8.85), but none concerning maternal age, paternal age and consanguinity.

Conclusions: In this pilot epidemiological study of autism in Lebanon, we found several prenatal and perinatal risk factors for autism that could be modified.


Autistic disorder; Risk factors; Epidemiology; Consanguinity; Lebanon

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