Friday, 10 January 2014

The gut microbiome and autism... so far

A micropost if you will, to provide readers with a link to the paper by Xinyi Cao and colleagues* (open-access) reviewing where autism research is up to when it comes to those trillions of beasties - the various gut bacteria - which call our deepest, darkest recesses home.

Regular readers probably already know about my borderline obsession with the gastrointestinal tract (gut) and its inner workings when it comes to at least some cases of the autisms and how the gut microbiome represents a potentially valuable new research frontier for lots of different states and conditions.

The paper by Cao et al lists just about everything, research-wise, related to the analysis of gut bacteria pertinent to autism up to October 2013, with all the big players so far included - from Williams (see here) to Wang (see here) and lots in-between. The final conclusions are a familiar one: more research needed and a requirement to ensure that "confounding variables" are controlled for as best they can be. Of course, as is common in research, one might argue that the Cao paper is already out of date given for example, the replication of that Sutterella finding by Wang and colleagues (see here). And slightly outside of studies of looking at gut bacteria in real people, there is the emerging evidence from mouse models too (see here) which sparked talk about probiotics and the feasibility of trying to alter gut bacterial arrangements**. I'm not yet entirely convinced about this probiotic method in the longer-term but alongside other suggestions (see here) will be keeping my research eyes open for any trial results.

A final quote to leave you with: "There does, however, appear to be a ‘signal’ suggesting significant differences in the GI microbiome between ASD [autism spectrum disorder] children and children without ASD, so there would be value in continuing this line of research". I can't argue with that.

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* Cao X. et al. Characteristics of the gastrointestinal microbiome in children with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review. Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry. 2013; 25: 342-353.

** Critchfield JW. et al. The potential role of probiotics in the management of childhood autism spectrum disorders. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2011;2011:161358.

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ResearchBlogging.org Xinyi CAO, Ping LIN, Ping JIANG, & Chunbo LI (2013). Characteristics of the gastrointestinal microbiome in children with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry Other: http://www.saponline.org/upload/2013/1231/342.pdf