Gut microbiome
Gut microbiomeiStock

A pioneering collaborative study conducted by a global team of microbiome experts has uncovered compelling evidence linking the gut microbiome to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The study, involving researchers from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University and in partnership with the Israel Autism Biobank and Registry, sheds light on the dysregulation of the gut-brain axis in individuals with autism and explores the potential for microbiome-based therapeutic interventions. The study was recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

In simple terms, the study identified consistent differences in the gut microbiome of individuals with autism across various cohorts worldwide. This suggests that microbiome changes are a common characteristic associated with autism. Furthermore, the study discovered correlations between microbiome changes and immune factors, including the inflammatory marker IL-6, in individuals with autism. Pilot studies involving fecal microbiome treatment demonstrated the ability to impact the dysregulated microbial species found in autism.

"Our collaborative study presents a significant breakthrough, revealing the profound influence of the gut-brain axis on the biology of autism," explains Prof. Evan Elliott, of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University, a key researcher involved in the study. "The correlation between microbiome alterations and immune system markers provides valuable insights into how the gut microbiome may influence the health of individuals diagnosed with autism. Additionally, the success of fecal microbiome treatment in modulating relevant microbial species represents a promising avenue for future therapeutic interventions."

The implications of these findings are far-reaching. The study further supports the notion that targeting the gut-brain axis could serve as a therapeutic approach for a specific subgroup of individuals with autism. By identifying specific markers of gut-brain dysregulation, clinicians may be better equipped to determine which individuals are most likely to benefit from microbiome-related treatments. This personalized approach holds the potential to significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for those on the autism spectrum.

Looking ahead, the research team plans to build upon their findings by conducting an in-depth analysis of metabolome and immune system characteristics in individuals from the Israel Autism Biobank and Registry. This Israeli-focused study aims to deepen the understanding of the intricate connection between the gut microbiome and its effects on host biology in autism. The researchers will work closely with participating families to gather additional information crucial for unraveling these complex interactions and informing future therapies.

This study was made possible through the initial support of Teva Pharmaceuticals. However, further funding is urgently needed to sustain the Israel Autism Biobank and Registry and continue their vital research efforts. The program, which began in 2015, faces an uncertain future without ongoing financial support, hindering potential breakthrough discoveries and advancements in autism research.