A2: Microbes on the News!

Autism symptoms reduced nearly 50% two years after fecal transplant


April 9, 2019


—  Summary:

Researchers first compared the microbiota diversity between normally developing children and children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They found that there was a significant difference in the diversity of the gut microbiome between these two groups. Next, with the help of the doctor who pioneered fecal transplants, children diagnosed with ASD were treated with fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs). They found that years after the treatment, there was a 45% decrease in chronic GI problems and a 58% reduction in the severity of ASD symptoms. 90% of the children in the study benefitted from this treatment plan.

—  Connections:

Several diseases stem from problems in the human gut microbiome, however, we have not discussed the effects on the mind. The researchers mentioned that they want to do more research to determine what these microbes are and what chemicals they are producing in children diagnosed with ASD. This leads me to believe that these anaerobic microbes are using several different metabolic pathways that produce gut-distressing products, as well as chemicals that could have an abnormal mechanism of action in the brain. These pathways can either be anaerobic respiration, via using a different terminal electron acceptor than oxygen or engage in fermenting which can produce several different compounds.

—  Critical analysis:

I have a cousin who was diagnosed with ASD and I recognize how much of a struggle it is to both treat and manage his disease. This FMT treatment provides a somewhat universal approach to reducing the symptoms and GI trouble associated with ASD. I had also never realized or recognized, the mental effects the microbiome can have on humans. This article was definitely credible and scientifically accurate based on the researchers’ credentials and experience. The author also did an excellent job at explaining the motivation for this study, elucidating the microbiome, and finally conveying the results of the study and future directions. The article could be well understood by someone without a background in microbiology.

—  Question:

What kind of products could one speculate are being produced in the gut microbiome of children diagnosed with ASD? Is it different for adults with ASD? How could one identify and quantify the products produced by the gut microbiome in children with ASD?