Gut bacteria in children with autism spectrum disorders: challenges and promise of studying how a complex community influences a complex disease
Recent studies suggest a role for the microbiota in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), potentially arising from their role in modulating the immune system and gastrointestinal (GI) function or from gut–brain interactions dependent or independent from the immune system. GI problems such as chronic constipation and/or diarrhea are common in children with ASD, and significantly worsen their behavior and their quality of life. Here we first summarize previously published data supporting that GI dysfunction is common in individuals with ASD and the role of the microbiota in ASD. Second, by comparing with other publically available microbiome datasets, we provide some evidence that the shifted microbiota can be a result of westernization and that this shift could also be framing an altered immune system. Third, we explore the possibility that gut–brain interactions could also be a direct result of microbially produced metabolites.