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article imageTackling autism by targeting gut bacteria

By Tim Sandle     Jun 20, 2017 in Science
Beijing - As part of the research into probiotic and prebiotic supplements, researchers have reported on indications that suggest altering the bacteria found in the human gut could help to address the symptoms of autism.
To reach this conclusion, scientists from Peking University in China have spent six decades examining the effects of changes in composition of gut bacteria in relation to various diseases, conditions and overall health. Recent focus has been with probiotics, prebiotics and fecal transplants, as well as studies on antibiotics, towards alleviating the symptoms of autism. The overall aim of the research is to come up with a low-cost therapy.
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects social interaction; as well as, communication, interest levels and various forms of behavior. The cause of autism is unknown; however, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are thought to act together. Autism appears in childhood, although not until a child is around three years of age.
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Recent research, Pharmaceutical Microbiology reports, suggests that the bacteria that reside in the human gut influence children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This links to studies of stomach conditions in children who go onto show signs of autism. Moreover, the bacteria in the human gut, especially in response to 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. This forms part of research into the human microbiome.
According to the lead researcher, Dr Qinrui Li, the link between the gut and autism spectrum disorder is well established. Those with autism tend to have recurrent problems like diarrhea, constipation and flatulence. Studies indicate that the root of such gastrointestinal problems is the result of an imbalance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the gut.
Based on this, Dr. Li thinks that it is possible to revert the gut microbiota to a healthy state and thereby alleviate some of the symptoms associated with autism. Trials in China using probiotics have apparently led to increased sociability, a reduction in repetitive behavior, and improved social communication, for those with autism.
The new research is published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. The research paper is titled “The Gut Microbiota and Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
More about Autism, Gut, gastrointestinal, Bacteria
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