Food

Gut health and autism link discovered

A team of researchers are calling for “collaborative efforts” to be made when looking at the link between autism and gut microbiome.

A study, carried out by the University of Colorado, has found changes in the gut are associated with behaviour.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Lozupone, a microbiologist in the Department of Medicine at the university, said: “Longitudinally, we were able to see that within an individual, changes in the microbiome were associated with changes in behaviour.

“If we are going to understand the link between the gut microbiome and autism, we need more collaborative efforts across different regions and centres to get really thorough generalisable information about this relationship.”

The trial involved studying gut bacteria samples taken from individuals with and without autism using standard DNA extraction and sequencing methods.

They found the composition of the gut were different among those with autism as they tended to have higher gastrointestinal symptoms. Other factors, such as diet, were also taken into account over the course of the study period.

Dr Lozupone said: “We reached out to study participants every three months or so and had them fill out a number of checklists, one being the aberrant behaviour checklist which looks at behaviours that are associated like inappropriate speech and repetitive motions.

“A food frequency questionnaire asked participants what they were eating in the past week. We also asked what types of GI symptoms participants were experiencing. We obtained faecal samples to look at the microbiome. We collected all this data to see how it related to each other.

“We need more research, but our work shows that the gut microbiome is playing a role in the provocation of symptoms in kids with autism spectrum disorder.

“This further supports the fact that the gut microbiome could be a valuable therapeutic target for children with autism spectrum disorders. I know that some labs have been exploring things like faecal microbiome transplant in these children and having some promising results.”

The findings have been published in mSystems, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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