Autism and microbiota

October 5, 2015

Autism and microbiota

Many parents of young children with neurodevelopment or autism spectrum disorders frequently try to help their children by adding alternative medical therapies to the conventional treatments.

They found that 39.3% of autism-affected families and 29.6% of families with a developmentally delayed child used complementary or alternative medicine.

Most commonly, parents gave children dietary supplements. These were used by 24.7% of the families with a child on the autism spectrum and 18.4% of families with a developmentally delayed child, the researchers note.

The study included 578 children aged from 2 to 5 years; 453 of them met diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, and 125 had a developmental disability.

Alternative medical therapy usage was more likely in families in which at least 1 parent had a bachelor’s degree than in families without this level of education. In addition, parents of children on the autism spectrum were far more likely to use a gluten-free, casein-free diet than were parents of children with developmental delays.

A study conducted by investigators at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena shows that treatment with the human gut microbe Bacteroides fragilis alleviates autism spectrum disorder (ASD) -like behaviors and eases comorbid gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in a mouse model of autism.

Neurodevelopmental disorders, including ASD, are defined by core behavioral impairments; however, subsets of individuals display a spectrum of gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities. We demonstrate GI barrier defects and microbiota alterations in the maternal immune activation (MIA) mouse model that is known to display features of ASD. Oral treatment of MIA offspring with the human commensal Bacteroides fragilis corrects gut permeability, alters microbial composition, and ameliorates defects in communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors. MIA offspring display an altered serum metabolomic profile, and B. fragilis modulates levels of several metabolites. Treating naive mice with a metabolite that is increased by MIA and restored by B. fragilis causes certain behavioral abnormalities, suggesting that gut bacterial effects on the host metabolome impact behavior. Taken together, these findings support a gut-microbiome-brain connection in a mouse model of ASD and identify a potential probiotic therapy for GI and particular behavioral symptoms in human neurodevelopmental disorders.

Probiotics may have therapeutic potential in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research suggests.