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Linkage of whole genome sequencing and administrative health data in autism: a proof of concept study


Whether genetic testing in autism can help understand longitudinal health outcomes and health service needs is unclear. The objective of this study was to determine whether carrying an autism-associated rare genetic variant is associated with differences in health system utilization by autistic children and youth. This retrospective cohort study examined 415 autistic children/youth who underwent genome sequencing and data collection through a translational neuroscience program (Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders Network). Participant data were linked to provincial health administrative databases to identify historical health service utilization, healthcare costs, and complex chronic medical conditions during a 3-year period. Health administrative data were compared between participants with and without a rare genetic variant in at least 1 of 74 genes associated with autism. Participants with a rare variant impacting an autism-associated gene (n = 83, 20%) were less likely to have received psychiatric care (at least one psychiatrist visit: 19.3% vs. 34.3%, p = 0.01; outpatient mental health visit: 66% vs. 77%, p = 0.04). Healthcare costs were similar between groups (median: $5589 vs. $4938, p = 0.4) and genetic status was not associated with odds of being a high-cost participant (top 20%) in this cohort. There were no differences in the proportion with complex chronic medical conditions between those with and without an autism-associated genetic variant. Our study highlights the feasibility and potential value of genomic and health system data linkage to understand health service needs, disparities, and health trajectories in individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions.



Baribeau DA, Arneja J, Wang X, Howe J, McLaughlin JR, Tu K, Guan J, Iaboni A, Kelley E, Ayub M, Nicolson R, Georgiades S, Scherer SW, Bronskill SE, Anagnostou E, Brooks JD. Autism Res. 2023; Aug 1 [Epub ahead of print].

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