-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism have
bacteria in their gut that is different from the bacteria seen in
kids who do not have the disorder, researchers have found.
In their report, published Jan. 10 in the online journal
mBio, researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City suggested that this finding could help explain the link between autism and gastrointestinal problems, such as inflammation.
The study authors added, however, it is still unclear if these
differences are a cause of autism or a result of the condition.
"The relationship between different microorganisms and the host and the outcomes for disease and development is an exciting issue," the study's editor, Christine Biron, a professor of medical science at Brown University, said in an American Society for Microbiology news release. "This paper is important because it starts to advance the question of how the resident microbes interact with a disorder that is poorly understood."
The researchers found a relatively large amount of
Sutterella bacteria in 12 out of 23 tissue samples taken from
the guts of children with autism. In contrast, they did not find
this type of bacteria in any samples taken from children without
autism who were studied for comparison.
Sutterella has been associated with gastrointestinal diseases
below the diaphragm, and whether it's a pathogen or not is still
not clear," explained a reviewer of the research, Jorge Benach,
chairman of the microbiology department at Stony Brook University.
"It is not a very well-known bacterium," he pointed out in the news
The findings are significant because digestive complications can
be very serious in kids with autism, contributing to their
behavioral problems, the study authors noted.
The study results are also more definitive than previous studies
that used stool samples, because tissue samples surgically removed
from the gut are more reflective of the bacteria found in the
children's intestinal walls.
While the study uncovered an association between the bacteria
and autism, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, so
more research is needed to explore the link between
Sutterella and gastrointestinal problems in autism, the
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human
Development has more about
disorders associated with autism.
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