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They discover biological markers that could help diagnose ASD

Components of the gut microbiome and their functions could contribute to causing autism

A team of scientists has confirmed that children with sleep disorder Autistic spectrum (ASD) have a different intestinal microbiome than neurotypicals and have discovered 31 biological markers that could help diagnose this disorder.

According to an EFE press release, researchers believe that in the future, these findings could help discover whether some of these components of the intestinal microbiome and their functions could contribute to causing autism.

The study, the details of which were published this Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, was carried out by a team of Chinese scientists led by Siew Ng, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (China).

The intestinal microbiome is the set of microorganisms that live in the human intestine (microbiota), with their genes and metabolites.

It has long been known that there is a relationship between the intestinal microbiome and ASD but, until now, most studies have focused on intestinal bacteria and have not studied whether the archaea, fungi and viruses of the microbiome, their function or their genes are altered in ASD.

To find out, the researchers performed metagenomic sequencing of fecal samples from 1.627 boys and girls with or without ASD between 1 and 13 years old from 5 cohorts in China.

The authors analyzed these samples along with data on additional factors such as diet, medication, and comorbidity and identified 14 archaea, 51 bacteria, 7 fungi, 18 viruses, 27 microbial genes, and 12 metabolic pathways altered in children with ASD.

Then, using machine learning, they created a model based on a panel of 31 microbes and functions, which had higher diagnostic accuracy in identifying people with ASD compared to panels of gut microbiome markers based on a single kingdom (such as bacteria or archaea).

The authors suggest that these 31 markers could have clinical diagnostic potential given their reproducibility in multiple cohorts.

These findings may also help future work to study the relationship between the intestinal microbiota and the diagnosis of ASD.

Impact of the study

For Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Research Director of the Autism Center at the University of Reading (United Kingdom), the study is important because for the first time it analyzes the role of fungi, archaea and viruses in autism.

“In general terms, the results coincide with those of previous studies that reflect a lower microbial diversity in autistic people. Furthermore, it is based on one of the largest samples seen in a study of this type, which further reinforces the results,” he highlights in statements to the SMC.

And although the study has not found any evidence that the microbiota causes autism, “it opens the possibility of investigating specific biochemical pathways and their impact on different autistic traits” in the future.

In addition, he emphasizes, “it could provide new ways to detect autism, if microbial markers reinforce the ability of genetic and behavioral tests to detect autism.”

Along the same lines, Toni Gabaldón, ICREA research professor and head of the Comparative Genomics group at the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB Barcelona) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS), highlights that the study is based on a high number of samples and also takes into account other diet and lifestyle factors that affect the gut microbiome.

That children on the autism spectrum have a different intestinal microbiota has been known for a long time, but most studies have been based on the study of bacteria. This study “provides a much more complete vision of the metabolic changes associated with changes in the microbiota,” highlights the Spanish researcher.

Regarding the discovery of the 31 biomarkers, Gabaldón recalls that currently the diagnosis is based on behavioral patterns that appear over time, so “having early biomarkers that could help detect autism earlier could facilitate the start of earlier therapies.” ”.

“If there are metabolic changes that influence the progression of symptoms and could be compensated through diets or the use of probiotics, the modulation of the microbiota would open as a door for new treatments that improve some aspects,” highlights Gabaldón.

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