Saturday, 18 June 2016

A study to watch... probiotics for autism

Happy as a pig in...
Assuming that I'm still around as and when published, I'd like to think that the final product of the study protocol from Elisa Santocchi and colleagues [1] will eventually find it's way on to this blog when the peer-reviewed results are finally in.

Alongside it's ClinicalTrials.gov entry (see here), authors describe an interesting double-blind, placebo-controlled study where the aim is to "determine the effects of supplementation with a probiotic mixture (Vivomixx®) in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] children not only on specific GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms, but also on the core deficits of the disorder, on cognitive and language development, and on brain function and connectivity."

Detailing how researchers *might* be able to put a little scientific flesh on the to the bones of the whole 'gut-brain' relationship with autism in mind (see here), the focus will be on how manipulation of the gut microbiome *might* have various impacts for at least some on the autism spectrum. Indeed with mention of words like 'inflammation' and 'leaky gut', I'd be quite interested to read their eventual findings given other (mouse) research in this area (see here for example) and some more recent investigation [2] on a possible role for Lactobacillus reuteri currently garnering media headlines - blog post to follow soon.

You will of course have picked up all the *might* parts of this post as the various subgroups ("Group 1) GI symptoms and probiotics, Group 2) GI Symptoms and placebo, Group 3) Non-GI symptoms and probiotics, Group 4) Non-GI symptoms and placebo") are followed over the 6-month study period. It is entirely conceivable that the Santocchi trial will reveal no effect from probiotic use on the facets of autism under study. Indeed, I'll be the first one to question whether, despite all the gut bacteria findings in relation to autism, we can actually 'change' the constitution of the gut microbiome long-term by such methods. Even some of our strongest antibiotics seem to only have a time-limited effect when it comes to autism and the deepest, darkest recesses of the gut (see here) and there is also the possibility of a 'critical window' for such supplementation use to also contend with.

But studies such as this do fill a rather large research gap for at least some on the autism spectrum and perhaps even beyond (see here). "We will watch your career with great interest" to coin a phrase...

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[1] Santocchi E. et al. Gut to brain interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorders: a randomized controlled trial on the role of probiotics on clinical, biochemical and neurophysiological parameters. BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 4;16(1):183.

[2] Buffington SA. et al. Microbial Reconstitution Reverses Maternal Diet Induced Social and Synaptic Deficits in Offspring. Cell.2016; 165: 1762-1775.

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ResearchBlogging.org Santocchi E, Guiducci L, Fulceri F, Billeci L, Buzzigoli E, Apicella F, Calderoni S, Grossi E, Morales MA, & Muratori F (2016). Gut to brain interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorders: a randomized controlled trial on the role of probiotics on clinical, biochemical and neurophysiological parameters. BMC psychiatry, 16 (1) PMID: 27260271