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Is autism linked to gut bacteria?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 8, 2013 in Health
Phoenix - New research suggests that the bacteria that reside in the human gut influence children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is related to stomach conditions in children who go onto show signs of autism.
The bacteria in the human gut and the way that the types and numbers change have been recently linked to a range of conditions, from digestion, fine-tuning body weight, regulating immune response, and producing neurotransmitters that affect brain and behavior. New revelations come as knowledge of the ‘human microbiome’ (the totality of microorganisms on an in the human body) increases. The latest connection is with gut bacteria and autism.
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behaviour. Autism is defined as a spectrum disorder, due to the broad range of symptoms involved and the influence of both genetic and environmental factors.
The new research has shown that autistic children have a tendency to experience gastro-intestinal problems that can last into adulthood. This indicates a possible link with the types of gut bacteria and autism. Specifically, children with autism had significantly fewer types of gut bacteria, probably making them more vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria.
The researchers hope that the technique developed to show the link will become a diagnostic tool to pinpoint autism and also work as a guide to developing effective treatments for ASD-associated gut bacterial problems.
The research was carried out at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE in a paper titled “Reduced Incidence of Prevotella and Other Fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of Autistic Children.”
The report follows on from an earlier Digital Journal account of research which indicated that researchers have put forward a method for predicting autism in infants by examining how their brain reacts as they attempt to speak and process language.
More about Autism, Bacteria, autism spectrum disorders, Gut, Gastrointestinal upset
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