Similar to other disorders, prevalence of autism is increasing, but its causes have yet to be fully understood. According to the United Nations, about one percent of the global population suffer from autism spectrum disorders – in all some 70 million people.
Recent studies suggest that bacteria play an important role in causing or preventing autism. Ted Dinan, professor at the University of Cork (Ireland), had already pointed this out at the “Beneficial Microbes” symposium held by Organobalance GmbH at the beginning of 2016. The gut-brain-axis he presented clearly shows the influence bacteria in our gut have on the way we think, feel, and act.
Among others, studies have shown that children born to mothers who are obese during pregnancy are more likely to develop autism compared to children of normal-weight women (Autism Research 2016; 10.1002/aur.1586). According to the results of the studies, those affected are also more likely to suffer from adverse gastrointestinal effects; here, too, a link between gut flora and autism is evident.
In a new study at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, a team headed by neuroscientist Mauro Costa-Mattioli demonstrated a direct link between gut flora, excess weight, and social interaction among mice. The researchers analysed the gut flora or gut microbiota and found that mice showing autism-like behaviours had significantly decreased levels of Lactobacillus reuteri, a lactic acid bacterium. Surprisingly, they were able to renormalise the animals’ social behaviour by feeding them L. reuteri.