Gut problems linked to autism, new study shows

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In a new study, researchers found evidence of a gut microbe deficiency in children who develop autism.

The research was conducted by a team at Peking University and elsewhere.

Prior research has suggested that problems with the gut microbiome may be behind the onset of autism in affected children, but what those problems might be has remained a mystery.

In this new effort, the researchers may have taken another step toward solving that mystery.

The work involved collecting stool samples from 39 children diagnosed with autism, and also from 40 children who did not have the disorder.

Each of the stool samples was subjected to metagenomic sequencing to determine if there were noticeable differences between the children with autism and those who did not have it.

The team focused most specifically on 18 microbial species that have previously been linked to autism.

In so doing, the team found differences in the ratios of detoxifying enzymes in children with autism compared to those who did not.

Feeling they were onto something, the team further tested another 65 children with autism and found the same results.

They suggest that autism likely develops in children due to a gut microbiome impact on the detoxification process in the gut.

And this, in turn, allows environmental toxins to enter the bloodstream where they injure mitochondria in brain cells, leading to symptoms related to autism.

The researchers acknowledge that more work is required, but also suggest that it might be possible to create a therapy that assists in the detoxification process, thereby heading off the onset of autism—or better yet, to overcome the elements that lead to detoxification problems in the first place.

One author of the study is Mengxiang Zhang.

The study is published in Science Advances.

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