Research shows that inflammation and infection in the mother can lead to symptoms of autism in offspring and that a bacterium, Bacteriodes fragilis, seems capable of reversing this.
In 2013 ‘groundbreaking’ research (1) led by Elaine Hsiao of the California Institute of Technology, researchers induced autism-like behaviour in the offspring of pregnant mice, and then fed one group of them a bacterium called Bacteriodes fragilis, which is known to boost the immune system. This resulted in a significant reduction in problem behaviour traits.
“We know that gut bacteria greatly influence the mental state in humans; and that their by-products, like serotonin, or lack of them, can affect our mental biochemistry; this was really the first study to show this in Autism,” said former Oxford University Biochemist Chris Woollams.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, seems increasingly linked to microbiome disturbances. Having observed that infants born to mothers at a time of inflammation or infection in the body seem to be more prone to autism, the researchers thought that it was possible that the infection was somehow causing the autism. Sure enough, the offspring of mothers with infection, carried an infection and had more symptoms of ASD. Altered gut bacterial composition, leaky gut and other gut problems are common in children with Autism.
The introduction of Bacteriodes fragilis seemed to overcome the infection and correct both gut problems and Autism behavioural symptoms.
“This research is not a one-off. A more recent study has shown a bacterium commonly found in mother’s breast milk, is missing in infants displaying ASD symptoms,” added Woollams.
Since the American Microbiome project started (a $178 million project involving 200 top scientists across America) research has shown that a lack of volume and diversity amongst gut bacteria is the link to a number of illnesses from type-2 diabetes to cancer and also to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Increasingly it is becoming clear that gut bacteria can affect both your physical and psychological health.
The evidence is mounting that the real cause of autism is a depleted gut microbiome – whether that was induced by infection in the mother, vaccines, obesity or any number of factors.
- Jack A. Gilbert, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Dorota L. Porazinska, Sophie J. Weiss, Rob Knight. Toward Effective Probiotics for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Cell, 2013; 155 (7): 1446 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.11.035