Molecular characterisation of gastrointestinal microbiota of children with autism (with and without gastrointestinal dysfunction) and their neurotypical siblings

Autism Res. 2012 Dec;5(6):419-27. doi: 10.1002/aur.1253. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) suffer from gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain. This has stimulated investigations into possible abnormalities of intestinal microbiota in autistic patients. Therefore, we designed this study to identify differences (and/or similarities) in the microbiota of children with autism (without gastrointestinal dysfunction: n = 23; with gastrointestinal dysfunction: n = 28) and their neurotypical siblings (n = 53) who share a similar environment using bacterial tag-encoded FLX amplicon pyrosequencing. Regardless of the diagnosis and sociodemographic characteristics, overall, Firmicutes (70%), Bacteroidetes (20%) and Proteobacteria (4%) were the most dominant phyla in samples. Results did not indicate clinically meaningful differences between groups. The data do not support the hypothesis that the gastrointestinal microbiota of children with ASD plays a role in the symptomatology of ASD. Other explanations for the gastrointestinal dysfunction in this population should be considered including elevated anxiety and self-restricted diets.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / microbiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Siblings*