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Autism could be diagnosed via stool sample

By July 9, 2024No Comments

Researchers have discovered distinct differences in gut microbes between autistic individuals and those without the condition, potentially paving the way for a quick and inexpensive autism diagnostic test.

This discovery implies that routine stool sample testing could allow for earlier autism detection, providing quicker diagnoses and subsequent support compared to the current lengthy clinical procedures.

The prevalence of autism has increased significantly in recent decades, mainly due to heightened awareness and expanded diagnostic criteria. Approximately one in 100 people in the UK and many other Western countries are now believed to be on the autism spectrum.

Twin studies indicate that 60-90% of autism cases are genetic, but other factors such as advanced parental age, birth complications, and prenatal exposure to air pollution or specific pesticides also play a role.

While it has been established that autistic individuals generally have less diverse gut bacteria, the connection between these microbes and autism—whether they contribute to the condition or result from it—remains unclear.

To further investigate, researchers analysed stool samples from 1,627 children aged one to 13, including some with autism. They identified the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea present in these samples.

Published in Nature Microbiology, the study revealed significant differences in the gut microbes of autistic children. In total, 51 types of bacteria, 18 viruses, 14 archaea, seven fungi, and twelve metabolic pathways were found to differ. Using machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, the researchers could identify autistic children with up to 82% accuracy based on 31 specific microbes and biological functions in the digestive system.

Ben Kemp