To identify differences related to sex and define autism spectrum disorder (ASD) comorbidities female-enriched through a comprehensive multi-PheWAS intersection approach on big, real-world data. Although sex difference is a consistent and recognized feature of ASD, additional clinical correlates could help to identify potential disease subgroups, based on sex and age.
We performed a systematic comorbidity analysis on 1860 groups of comorbidities exploring all spectrum of known disease, in 59 140 individuals (11 440 females) with ASD from 4 age groups. We explored ASD sex differences in 2 independent real-world datasets, across all potential comorbidities by comparing (1) females with ASD vs males with ASD and (2) females with ASD vs females without ASD.
We identified 27 different comorbidities that appeared significantly more frequently in females with ASD. The comorbidities were mostly neurological (eg, epilepsy, odds ratio [OR] > 1.8, 3-18 years of age), congenital (eg, chromosomal anomalies, OR > 2, 3-18 years of age), and mental disorders (eg, intellectual disability, OR > 1.7, 6-18 years of age). Novel comorbidities included endocrine metabolic diseases (eg, failure to thrive, OR = 2.5, ages 0-2), digestive disorders (gastroesophageal reflux disease: OR = 1.7, 6-11 years of age; and constipation: OR > 1.6, 3-11 years of age), and sense organs (strabismus: OR > 1.8, 3-18 years of age).
A multi-PheWAS intersection approach on real-world data as presented in this study uniquely contributes to the growing body of research regarding sex-based comorbidity analysis in ASD population.
Our findings provide insights into female-enriched ASD comorbidities that are potentially important in diagnosis, as well as the identification of distinct comorbidity patterns influencing anticipatory treatment or referrals. The code is publicly available (

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Medical Informatics Association.