A2: Microbes in the News (gut bacteria and Autism)

Title: Gut bacteria may offer a treatment for autism

Source: The Economist

Date of article: December 6, 2018

Link: https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/12/08/gut-bacteria-may-offer-a-treatment-for-autism


The article elaborates on a study done using mice with autism genes to see what affects Lactobacillus reuteri (a gut flora bacterium normally found at low concentrations in people who have autism) had on their autistic behaviors. To do this, the researchers compared mice drinking water laced with L. reuteri to other autistic mice who were not drinking laced water (control). They found that L. reuteri laced water “abolished’ some autistic characteristics, whereas the control mice saw no change. They believe that L. reuteri interacts with oxytocin, a hormone that plays a part in the forming of bonds in human and mammals. To test this, researchers used autistic mice that also had a gene mutation that turned of oxytocin receptors; L. reuteri laced drinking water had no effect.


I think this article is related to early thinkers of disease that we learned about at the beginning of the semester. We like to think we’ve made tons of huge discoveries, but now we’re able to draw connections between microbes and sicknesses more efficiently, but more astoundingly, even intellectual anomalies.


Personally, I am really interested in the gut microflora and its unknown capabilities, so I enjoyed this article. I do think the article was factual, but what I found to be absolutely cringeworthy was that the article continued to say L. reuteri “abolished’ autistic behaviors. In my opinion, it’s hard to say abolished in general, but especially when the sample size of this study was only a few dozen mice, including the control mice. I do think that the article was written fairly well, though some parts did go into depths that the general public may not understand or care for. I think the article also did a good job of explaining that we may not see the same results in humans and it could be strain specific.


Because I think this is enough information for people to jump the gun and do their own personal trials, I’d be curious what other effects L. reuteri might have and in what sources might we find it?

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