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Autism: Probiotics May Help With Behavioral Issues

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A recent study indicates that gastrointestinal challenges may be linked to certain autism spectrum disorders and that probiotic therapy may help. The gut flora in ASD people (autism spectrum disorders) may be linked to influence social and emotional behavior. Researchers published in a journal called 'Cell' revealed they found in studies using mice with autistic-like behaviors that gut flora does indeed have a positive link

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Researchers used a mouse autism model that was developed at Caltech within the laboratory of Paul Patterson, the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences
. It is known that if a pregnant woman obtains a severe viral infection that the risk of autism rises within the newborn. Patterson and Colleagues found a way to start this effect by using a viral mimic that will cause a reactive immune response in the mother and then causes the base behavioral problems of autism in newborns.

In the study, researchers found that those mice that were born with the autistic-behaviors also were found to have abnormalities within their GI tracts. It seems as if the main problems came from what seems to be a leaky gut, or that material that is not supposed to pass into any other part of the body is somehow leaking through the intestines and into the bloodstream. This problem has been reported in many autistic individuals and is known as intestinal permeability. So, this seems to be the first animal model to ever express this unique problem.
The mice were then reportedly treated with Bacteroides fragilis, an experimental bacterium for probiotic therapy and it corrected the behavioral problems that were expressed. Scientists suggest that this explains why GI problems can cause certain symptoms in neuro-developmental disorders.

So it looks like in about a year or two researchers are going to try using this therapy on human participants in order to improve certain behaviors after birth. Being that the infant has already started on this particular developmental pathway due to the mother’s infection it was exposed to. Although there seems to be a lot of work to be done in order to find a reliable and effective way to use probiotic therapy in humans yet, and it may not work within every ASD case. That is because the mouse model only replicates the environmental factor that can cause autistic-like behaviors. So researchers are hoping that this may help people change the way they see what causes ASD disorders and how they may be treated.

By Tina Elliott

BioScience

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