The right mix of gut microbes relieves autism symptoms in the long run


a child playing with blocks on the floor
MIXED-UP MICROBES Children with autism spectrum disorders have unusual mixes of gut microbes. Altering those mixes has positive, long-lasting effects on behavior, a study finds.

MADISON, Wis. — Giving children with autism a healthier mix of gut bacteria as a way to improve behavioral symptoms continued to work even two years after treatment ended.

The finding may solidify the connection between tummy troubles and autism, and provide more evidence that the gut microbiome — the collection of bacteria and other microbes that live in the intestines — can influence behavior.

“It’s a long way from saying there’s a cure for autism,” says Michael Hylin, a neuroscientist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale who was not involved in the work. “But I think it’s a promising approach. It’s one that’s worthwhile.”

Children with autism spectrum disorders often have gastrointestinal problems. In previous studies, environmental engineer Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown of Arizona State University in Tempe and colleagues discovered that children with autism had fewer types of bacteria living in their guts than typically developing children did. And many of the kids were missing Prevotella bacteria, which may help regulate immune system actions. The researchers wondered whether altering the children’s…


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