Gut Bacteria said not to cause autism

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ASPartOfMe
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12 Nov 2021, 9:37 am

University of Western Australia

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There has been much speculation that the community of bacteria living in the gut – known as the microbiome – may be different among people on the autism spectrum than the wider population. This has led some researchers and clinicians to speculate that gut bacteria could cause autism.

But our new research, published today in the journal Cell, turns this theory on its head.

Rather than differences in gut bacteria influencing brain development, our research suggests changes in gut bacteria are driven by restricted diets, or “picky eating”.

Restricted diets are more common among children with autism because of their sensory sensitivities and restricted and repetitive interest

Interest in the autism gut microbiome first came from observations people on the autism spectrum are more likely to experience gut problems, such as constipation and diarrhoea.

Further studies seemed to suggest children on the autism spectrum had different combinations of bacteria living in their gut.

These intriguing relationships inspired studies of mice and rats, some of which indicated the microbiome may cause differences in behaviour.

But the excitement has been misguided.

Weighing up all the findings, the evidence linking the microbiome to autism is highly inconsistent and many studies have significant problems with their scientific design.

There are also problems in relating mouse studies to humans, because autism does not exist in mice.

Despite the uncertainty in the science, the hype around the microbiome and autism has continued to gather momentum.

Out of this momentum emerged speculative therapies claiming to support children with autism by altering the microbiome, including faecal microbiota transfers and diet therapies.

These “therapies” were long on hope but short on evidence for efficacy and safety, and come with their own risks and substantial costs.

We worked with the Australian Autism Biobank, which includes extensive clinical and biological data from children on the autism spectrum and their families, as well as the Queensland Twin Adolescent Brain Project.

We compared microbial DNA from stool samples of 99 children on the autism spectrum to two groups of non-autistic children: 51 of their siblings and 97 unrelated children.

We also looked at clinical, family and lifestyle information, including about the child’s diet, for a comprehensive, broad look at factors that may contribute to the their microbiome.

We found no evidence for a relationship between autism and measures of the microbiome as a whole, or with microbiome diversity.

Only one bacterial species out of more than 600 showed an association with autism. We found no evidence for other bacterial groups that have previously been reported in autism (for example, Prevotella).

Instead, we found children on the autism spectrum were more likely to be “picky eaters” – consistent with reports from earlier studies – and this was related to particular traits associated with autism, such as restricted interests and sensory sensitivity.

We also found pickier eaters tended to have a less diverse microbiome, and runnier (more diarrhoea-like) stool. We’ve also known for some time children on the autism spectrum are more likely to have gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.


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12 Nov 2021, 9:39 am

Being honest, it sounds utterly preposterous that it would.

I thought scientists would have known better than to actually contemplate such pseudoscience.



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12 Nov 2021, 9:42 am

I will remove "Gut Bacteria" from the list of alleged causes of autism.



magz
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12 Nov 2021, 9:45 am

I think bad gut bacteria could make one's autistic traits worse - just like any other health problem would - but not actually cause one to be autistic.
I think health problems making autistic traits worse is the source of countless red herrings in searching for understanding autism on medical level.


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14 Nov 2021, 7:17 pm

.. gut bacteria .. hahahaha !

Autism is a carried genetic inheritance . How can it be placed on something changeable . Now if they were to suggest finding correlating to gut bacteria in Autistic individuals I can acknowledge that .

Much like any genetic , Autism presents itself in our physical appearance if you study it enough . Gut bacteria will not suddenly adjust your physical features .. such as eye size .. lol



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19 Nov 2021, 9:21 am

The Gut Microbiome’s Role in Autism Gets Murkier

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THE MICROBIOME HAS become one of the hottest buzzwords in science. And specifically, the gut microbiome—the delicate colony of microbes camped out in your digestive tract—has attracted intense attention from scientists and quacks alike.

Our abundant microbial inhabitants have been theorized to influence our mind and behavior, and may play a role in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and depression. But some advocates have put the cart before the horse, and pushed the theory to link the microbiome to nearly every illness or condition. And a condition as poorly understood as autism presents a particular inviting area for probing.

We don’t yet know the root cause of autism, though genetic factors are thought to be involved. But some research has hinted that the gut plays a role. Much of the evidence to support the theory has come from studies in animals; for example, when scientists put fecal samples from children with autism into mice, colonizing their stomachs with their microbes, the animals developed autism-like behaviors. These studies were thought to suggest a causal relationship between gut bacteria and the development of autism—but rodents are a poor proxy for the complexities of autism and the human mind. Other studies have found that children with autism tend to have a different microbiome makeup compared to children not on the spectrum. But it’s never been clear whether this divergence in gut flora is a cause or an effect. Now, a new paper in the journal Cell argues for the latter: The difference stems from the kids’ eating behaviors, and may be a consequence, not the cause, of their symptoms

The study “validates a lot of what people have been thinking,” says Calliope Holingue, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland, on whether the connection between autism and the microbiome may be partially due to diet. “That being said, I think it doesn't totally erase the possibility that the microbiome does play a role in autism itself.”

One critique, she says, is that the study looked at a snapshot in time, rather than over a long period. “Even though the authors didn't find that autism itself was associated with gut microbiome composition or diversity, that doesn't mean that the microbiome wasn't involved at some point, prior to the study, for example,” says Holingue. Yap acknowledges that in order to assess causality, longitudinal studies will be important.

While no study so far has conclusively shown it, the early hints at a relationship between the gut and autism seeded hopes for a treatment.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence to support efficacy, the early research has encouraged clinics to offer treatments for autistic people, including interventions such as probiotics, prebiotics, and fecal microbiota transplants, or FMTs (or, less often, “transpoosions”).

“When autistic people or [their] families receive the news that someone is autistic, they are just left with zero effective support,” says James Cusack, the CEO of Autistica, an autism research charity in the UK, who is on the spectrum. “And that can be a very traumatic experience for families and for autistic people.” It also means that a parent could feel forced to find alternative ways of ensuring that their child thrives in the same way as their peers. (One 2015 study surveyed parents and found that nearly nine in 10 had sought out complementary and alternative medicine for their children’s autism.) These parents might be more susceptible to trying out things which are really not evidence-based at all, Cusack says. “And it's really sad that people are in this position. What we should be trying to do is to try and understand the reasons people make these decisions and try to support them to take a different approach.”

The new University of Queensland study offers a pessimistic prognosis for the theory that poop transplants or other gut-based interventions can help autistic people. If the lack of microbiome diversity is a symptom, not a cause, there’s not much they can do to address autism’s roots. But Yap feels her study offers insights into other things parents can do to help their children. “Our results highlight the importance of a healthy, balanced diet for kids on the spectrum, and a critical need to support children and families at mealtimes, and research into how to best support families and children to eat well,” she says.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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19 Nov 2021, 9:21 am

magz wrote:
I think bad gut bacteria could make one's autistic traits worse - just like any other health problem would - but not actually cause one to be autistic.
I think health problems making autistic traits worse is the source of countless red herrings in searching for understanding autism on medical level.


This is what I came here to say! :) :heart:


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kraftiekortie
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19 Nov 2021, 9:45 am

When I read the OP, my thoughts ran to "just as I suspected."

Yes. I used to have gastrointestinal problems when I was a kid. And yes, I was a "picky eater."

The lesson here: there is no panacea for autism. There are many causes for autism. We will never be able to pinpoint one "cause"; therefore when cannot propose one "treatment" that would "cure" autism. We have to treat each case on an individual basis, and treat the symptoms, rather than seek the "cure."

I strongly suspect the the autism caused the gastrointestinal symptoms----rather than the gastrointestinal symptoms being caused by the autism.



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19 Nov 2021, 12:24 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:

I strongly suspect the the autism caused the gastrointestinal symptoms----rather than the gastrointestinal symptoms being caused by the autism.

It really is impossible to say. There isn't a LOT of data out there, and there can be so many factors at play!

I have multiple health issues (including dysautonomia--which causes GI issues, heart issues, and a host or other problems) that are absolutely affected by the hypervigilance, anxiety, and sensory sensitivities that are part of my being autistic. However, I also attribute my issues to my being on the hypermobility spectrum. There is some research linking connective tissue disorders and hypermobility with autism. (This would mean that the genes that play a part in both HSD/EDS and autism COULD also result in GI issues. Just in case you didn't know, HSD/EDS affects all systems of the body.) I think there may be some genetics at play in terms of the EDS/HSD and autism link, but as you said, it is nearly impossible to pin down all of the different factors involved.


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