Gut Microbiota and Autism: Key Concepts and Findings

Abstract

There is an emerging body of evidence linking the intestinal microbiota with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Studies have demonstrated differences in the composition of gut bacteria between children with ASD and controls. Certain intestinal bacteria have been observed in abundance and may be involved in the pathogenesis of ASD; including members of the Clostridium and Sutterella genus. Evidence from animal models suggest that certain microbial shifts in the gut may produce changes consistent with the clinical picture of autism, with proposed mechanisms including toxin production, aberrations in fermentation processes/products, and immunological and metabolic abnormalities. In this article, we review studies examining the relationship between intestinal bacteria and ASD, and discuss bacterial species that may be implicated and proposed mechanisms.

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Author Contributions

HD was the primary writer. YT and JW participated in the drafting and editing of the manuscript. The final version of the manuscript was approved by all authors.

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Correspondence to Helen T. Ding.

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Dr. Ding declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr. Taur declares that he has no conflict of interest. Dr. Walkup has received free drug/placebo from the following pharmaceutical companies for National Institute of Mental Health funded studies Eli Lilly (2003), Pfizer (2007), Abbott (2005). Dr. Walkup was paid for a one time consultation with Shire (2011). Dr. Walkup is a paid speaker for the Tourette Syndrome-Center for Disease Control and Prevention outreach educational programs; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Walkup receives royalties for books on Tourette syndrome from Guilford Press and Oxford Press. Dr. Walkup receives grant funding from the Hartwell Foundation and the Tourette Syndrome Association, and is an unpaid advisor to Anxiety Disorders Association of America, Consumer Reports, and Trichotillomania Learning Center.

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Ding, H.T., Taur, Y. & Walkup, J.T. Gut Microbiota and Autism: Key Concepts and Findings. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 480–489 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2960-9

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Regressive autism
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Microbiota
  • Microbiome