“Gut bacteria may contribute to autism”
Children with autism appear to have a characteristic chemical signature in their urine which might form the basis of an early diagnostic test for the condition.
The finding also adds weight the hypothesis that substances released by gut bacteria are contributing to the onset of the condition.
Autism has previously been linked to metabolic abnormalities and gastrointestinal problems such as gut pain and diarrhoea. Several studies have also hinted at changes in gut bacteria in the faeces of children with autism. [...]
Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyse the children’s urine, they found that each of these groups had a distinct chemical fingerprint, with clear and significant differences between children with autism and unrelated controls.”The signature that comes up is related to gut bacteria,” says Nicholson. It is not yet clear whether the bacteria’s metabolic products contribute to the development of autism, but it is a possibility worth investigating, he adds. A large proportion of autistic children have severe gastrointestinal problems that tend to appear at about the same time as the behavioural symptoms.
“It adds another link to the gut bacterial involvement in the onset of disorder,” says Glenn Gibson of the University of Reading, UK, who has previously identified abnormally high levels of clostridium bacteria in children with autism.
One possibility is that the gut bacteria in children with autism are producing toxins that might interfere with brain development. One of the compounds identified in the urine of autistic children was N-methyl-nicotinamide (NMND), which has also been implicated in Parkinson’s disease.
Meanwhile, Derrick MacFabe of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and his colleagues have found that short-chain fatty acids produced by clostridium bacteria can induce reversible autism-like behavioural and biochemical changes in rats. [...]
Even if bacteria are not actually contributing to the observed metabolic changes, they could still be put to use. “There is probably the basis of a test for autism based on a urinary metabolic profile,” says Nicholson. (via: 1,2.)
Shouts out to Dale for sharing this interesting link with me.