Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by social and behavioural impairments. In addition to neurological symptoms, ASD subjects frequently suffer from gastrointestinal abnormalities, thus implying a role of the gut microbiota in ASD gastrointestinal pathophysiology.
Results: Here, we characterized the bacterial and fungal gut microbiota in a cohort of autistic individuals demonstrating the presence of an altered microbial community structure. A fraction of 90% of the autistic subjects were classified as severe ASDs. We found a significant increase in the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in autistic subjects due to a reduction of the Bacteroidetes relative abundance. At the genus level, we observed a decrease in the relative abundance of Alistipes, Bilophila, Dialister, Parabacteroides, and Veillonella in the ASD cohort, while Collinsella, Corynebacterium, Dorea, and Lactobacillus were significantly increased. Constipation has been then associated with different bacterial patterns in autistic and neurotypical subjects, with constipated autistic individuals characterized by high levels of bacterial taxa belonging to Escherichia/Shigella and Clostridium cluster XVIII. We also observed that the relative abundance of the fungal genus Candida was more than double in the autistic than neurotypical subjects, yet due to a larger dispersion of values, this difference was only partially significant.
Conclusions: The finding that, besides the bacterial gut microbiota, also the gut mycobiota contributes to the alteration of the intestinal microbial community structure in ASDs opens the possibility for new potential intervention strategies aimed at the relief of gastrointestinal symptoms in ASDs.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Constipation; Gut microbiota; Metataxonomy; Mycobiota.