Frontiers in Microbiology
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Integrative Metabolomics and Computational Biology
The human gut microbiome has increasingly been associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is a neurological developmental disorder, characterized by impairments to social interaction. The ability of the gut microbiota to signal across the gut-brain-microbiota axis with metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids, impacts brain health and has been identified to play a role in the gastrointestinal and developmental symptoms affecting autistic children. The fecal microbiome of older children with ASD has repeatedly shown particular shifts in the bacterial and fungal microbial community, which are significantly different from age-matched neurotypical controls, but it is still unclear whether these characteristic shifts are detectable before diagnosis. Early microbial colonization patterns can have long-lasting effects on human health, and pre-emptive intervention may be an important mediator to more severe autism. In this study, we characterized both the microbiome and short-chain fatty acid concentrations of fecal samples from young children between 21 and 40 months who were showing early behavioral signs of ASD. The fungal richness and acetic acid concentrations were observed to be higher with increasing autism severity, and the abundance of several bacterial taxa also changed due to the severity of ASD. Bacterial diversity and SCFA concentrations were also associated with stool form, and some bacterial families were found with differential abundance according to stool firmness. An exploratory analysis of the microbiome associated with pre-emptive treatment also showed significant differences at multiple taxonomic levels. These differences may impact the microbial signaling across the gut-brain-microbiota axis and the neurological development of the children.
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