Probiotics and Autism

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There have been multiple news reports on a probiotic that helps autistic individuals. The reference is to a new scientific report within the journal Cell. This reports describes that the strain Lactobacillus reuteri of probiotic has worked well in reducing autistic behaviors in mice.

Mauro Costa-Mattioli a neuroscientist and director of the Memory and Brain Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Shelly Buffington a postdoctoral fellow lead a team of researchers to this finding.  

Multiple studies indicate that autistic people have marked differences in their microbiome than others. However studies haven’t shown specific difference. Microbiome affects the development and function on the brain. Mouse studies indicate a similarity between changes in microbiome and behaviors linked to autism such as repetitive actions and social avoidance. Within these studies it is also indicative that probiotic treatment relieves some of these behaviors. Feeding the mice Bacteroides fragilis helped improve their sociability. The study also explores how changes in bacteria help in affecting brain development and function. This was reiterated when researchers found that Lactobacillus reuteri (good bacteria) lead to an increased presence of oxytocin as well as increased the plasticity of the brain. We still, however, don’t know how this bacteria failed soothing ang easing anxiety and repetitive actions.

A caution of the study is that the work is related to mice and their brains are not the same as humans. The same goes for mouse microbiomes and human microbiomes. The preliminary studies indicate that the studied microbiome in autistic children is one that is also being evaluated for constipation and abdominal pain. Results from those studies show that this microbiome differs between kids with autism and kids not affected by the condition.

In conclusion, multiple studies have found a link within microbiome and autism. Further conclusive research is still being conducted for more concrete results.