Autism linked to altered gut microbiome in children

Wednesday, 10 July, 2024

Autism linked to altered gut microbiome in children

Specific bacterial and non-bacterial components of the gut microbiome and their functions could contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children, according to a study published in Nature Microbiology.

A specific subset of these components could inform future diagnostic and mechanistic studies, the research suggests.

While the relationship between the gut microbiome and ASD has been researched previously, this study focuses on shifts in the composition of gut bacteria in individuals with ASD compared with neurotypical individuals. Whether other members of the gut microbiome, such as archaea, fungi and viruses, as well as gut microbiome function (or genes present), are altered is unclear.

Siew Ng and colleagues performed metagenomic sequencing on faecal samples from 1627 male and female (24.4%) children with or without ASD aged 1–13 years old from five cohorts in China.

The authors analysed these samples together with data on additional factors including diet, medication and comorbidity.

After controlling for these confounding factors, the authors identified 14 archaea, 51 bacteria, 7 fungi, 18 viruses, 27 microbial genes and 12 metabolic pathways that were altered in children with ASD.

Using machine learning, Ng and colleagues created a model based on a panel of 31 microbes and functions, which had higher diagnostic accuracy in identifying both males and females with ASD compared with panels of gut microbiome markers from a single kingdom (such as bacteria or archaea).

The authors suggest that these 31 markers could have clinical diagnostic potential given their reproducibility across multiple cohorts. These findings may also aid future hypothesis-driven mechanistic work on the gut microbiota and ASD.

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