It’s been an ongoing enigma as to what causes Autism to manifest with such dynamism & why the prevalence continues to rise. Past exhaustive research pointed towards genetics & environmental factors as the key factors responsible for the development of Autism.

Although these two are plausible contributors, a recent study also pointed out that a disruption in communication between the gut & the central nervous system, known as the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA), could be a reason for Autism. 

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) set out to address this hypothesis & commissioned a study that included 46 experts, which included computational biologists, engineers, medical professionals, autism researchers & microbiome experts from across four continents. After rigorous research & evaluation of datasets they had collected, the team concluded that there was indeed a link between the gut microbiome & Autism.

The Research Procedure

The procedure of this study involved a comprehensive analysis of 25 pre-existing datasets. These data sets contained details concerning the dietary pattern, microbiome, gene expression, and immune system activities of both autistic and neurotypical individuals that were sampled. The next step involved developing an algorithm to match pairs of autistic and non-autistic individuals with comparable ages and genders to ensure unbiased results.

Study Results

Computational analysis revealed that certain microbial species were in large quantities among participants with Autism and least among those without the condition.

The microbes that were specific to autistic participants were found to align with those identified in a 2019 study that investigated the potential benefits of microbiota transfer therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum. This is an unprecedented observation, as it is the first time that a clear correlation between gut microbial and human metabolic pathways has been reported concerning Autism.

In an Interview with study Author Dr. Jamie Morton, he says, “We were successful in synthesizing seemingly divergent data from multiple studies and finding a correlation between them. The analysis enabled us to recognize a microbial signature that segregates autistic from neurotypical individuals across numerous investigations.

However, the crucial point is that we require reliable long-term research that looks at as many datasets as possible and comprehends how they transform when there is a remedial intervention.”


Microbiomes & other illnesses

While the autism-microbiome results still need more research, it provides hope for a relationship between microbes and illnesses such as depression, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. A focus on microbiome components can help researchers develop a better understanding of how its many parts interact to enhance or inhibit health. To accomplish this, scientists are turning to DNA sequencing and transcriptomics.

Theories about Microbiomes & Autism

The current research presents evidence of distinct microbiomes between those with autistic individuals and neurotypicals, but again the exact causes of these differences remain unknown. There are a few theories in this regard, with one proposing that the picky eating behaviors tied to Autism are responsible for changes in the gut biome.

However, other studies have indicated that diet is a non-factor in the microbiome disparity between those with Autism and those without. Some experts hypothesize that antibiotic usage can prompt the difference in microbiomes.

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