The Gut Microbiome: A New Frontier in Autism Research

Abstract

The human gut harbors a complex community of microbes that profoundly influence many aspects of growth and development, including development of the nervous system. Advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing methods have led to rapidly expanding knowledge about this gut microbiome. Here, we review fundamental emerging data on the human gut microbiome, with a focus on potential interactions between the microbiome and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and consider research on atypical patterns of feeding and nutrition in ASD and how they might interact with the microbiome. Finally we selectively survey results from studies in rodents on the impact of the microbiome on neurobehavioral development. The evidence reviewed here suggests that a deeper understanding of the gut microbiome could open up new avenues of research on ASD, including potential novel treatment strategies.

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Disclosure

J. G. Mulle: research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; W. G. Sharp: research support from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Trust Pilot Award; J. F. Cubells: research support from NIH, Roche, Seaside Therapeutics, and Biomarin and consultant to Abbott Laboratories, Novartis, Barnes and Thornberg, LLP, and the University of Nebraska.

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Correspondence to Jennifer G. Mulle.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Genetic Disorders

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Mulle, J.G., Sharp, W.G. & Cubells, J.F. The Gut Microbiome: A New Frontier in Autism Research. Curr Psychiatry Rep 15, 337 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-012-0337-0

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Keywords

  • Gut microbiome
  • Nervous system
  • Behavior
  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • ASDs
  • Feeding
  • Nutrition
  • Dietary intake
  • Animal studies
  • Neurobehavioral development
  • Genetic disorders
  • Psychiatry