Scientists confirm link between gut health and autism

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects how people communicate and behave, often noticed through less interaction with others and doing the same things repeatedly.

Scientists have always been curious about what causes ASD. A recent study by a group of researchers from Bar-Ilan University’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine has made a fascinating discovery that might help us understand autism better.

They found a possible link between ASD and the types of bacteria living in our gut.

The team studied the gut bacteria of 96 people with ASD and 42 people without ASD (neurotypical) in Israel. They found big differences in the types of bacteria present in the two groups.

Specifically, they noticed more variety in the bacteria types and a greater number of certain bacteria called Bacteroidetes and Bacteroides in those with ASD.

Usually, having a wide variety of bacteria in our gut is considered a sign of good health. But this study shows that people with ASD have more diversity than expected, which is surprising.

It challenges what we thought we knew about health and gut bacteria. Bacteroides are a common type of bacteria in our gut, but having too many of them might not be good for our health.

To understand how these bacteria affect behavior, the researchers did an experiment with baby mice. They gave some mice a type of Bacteroides called Bacteroides fragilis right after they were born.

These mice later showed signs similar to autism, like not wanting to socialize and doing the same actions over and over. They also had changes in how certain genes worked.

Professor Evan Elliott, who led the study, said, “Our findings suggest that having too many Bacteroides, especially early in life, could affect people with ASD.

This helps us understand better how gut bacteria and brain development are connected.” Professor Omry Koren, who knows a lot about gut bacteria, also worked on this study.

Interestingly, the study found that these effects were mostly seen in male mice, not female mice. This suggests that boys might be more affected by changes in the environment that could lead to ASD.

This discovery points out the need to look more into how ASD affects boys and girls differently and how gut bacteria play a role.

This research opens up new paths for exploring how changing the bacteria in our gut early in life might affect brain development.

Understanding the link between our gut bacteria and conditions like ASD can lead to new ways to support people with autism, showing how complex and connected our body systems are.

The research findings can be found in npj Biofilms and Microbiomes.

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