Gut bacteria in children with autism spectrum disorders: challenges and promise of studying how a complex community influences a complex disease

Recent studies suggest a role for the microbiota in autism spectrum
disorders (ASD), potentially arising from their role in modulating the
immune system and gastrointestinal (GI) function or from gut–brain
interactions dependent or independent from the immune system. GI
problems such as chronic constipation and/or diarrhea are common in
children with ASD, and significantly worsen their behavior and their
quality of life. Here we first summarize previously published data
supporting that GI dysfunction is common in individuals with ASD and the
role of the microbiota in ASD. Second, by comparing with other
publically available microbiome datasets, we provide some evidence that
the shifted microbiota can be a result of westernization and that this
shift could also be framing an altered immune system. Third, we explore
the possibility that gut–brain interactions could also be a direct
result of microbially produced metabolites.

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