Autism rates are on the rise in the US, and the cause of this condition is still unknown. Autism is mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children will be born with autism. This is a huge increase from the 1 in 150 children in 2000. It is unknown how autism starts, but something causes a change in brain structure or function that leads to the condition. New research shows that it could possibly be related to the human gut microbiome.
Since the 1990’s, the gut microbiome has been the topic of copious amounts of research. Scientific developments since then have uncovered the influence that the gut microbiome has on human health. Disorders in the microbiome have been linked to conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and even some cancers. New research claims that over representation of Clostridium or Desulfovibrio bacteria in the microbiome could possibly cause the autism spectrum disorders. According to the report, “Studies of fecal DNA extracts have found Clostridium or Desulfovibrio clusters over-represented in children with gastrointestinal complaints and ASD(autism spectrum disorders) as compared to children with similar GI complaints but typical neuro-behavioral development”. A another possible link between the microbiome and autism was found when clinical improvement was reported in children with autism who developed fever, received antibiotics, or ingested probiotics— treatments that likely altered gut bacteria, thus limiting the effects of the bacteria.
While the connections may be weak right now, discovering potential connections between autism and the gut microbiome allows for more research and a potential cure one day. One researcher plans on conducting a clinical study using fecal transplants from healthy donors. The goal of this study is to see if the treatment “would reduce autism symptoms by normalizing an individual’s community of gut bacteria.”