The role of probiotics in children with autism spectrum disorder: A prospective, open-label study

Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Nov;21(9):676-681. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1347746. Epub 2017 Jul 7.


Objective: There are limited data on the efficacy of probiotics in children with ASD, therefore, this study aims to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of probiotics in an Egyptian cohort of children with ASD.

Methods: Gastrointestinal (GI) flora were assessed by quantitative real-time PCR of stool samples of 30 autistic children from 5 to 9 years old. GI symptoms of autistic children were assessed with a modified six-item Gastrointestinal Severity Index (6-GSI) questionnaire, and autistic symptoms were assessed with Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) before and after 3 months of supplementation of probiotics nutritional supplement formula (each gram contains 100 × 106 colony forming units of three probiotic strains; Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria longum).

Results: After probiotic supplementation, the stool PCR of autistic children showed increases in the colony counts of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli levels, with a significant reduction in their body weight as well as significant improvements in the severity of autism (assessed by the ATEC), and gastrointestinal symptoms (assessed by the 6-GSI) compared to the baseline evaluated at the start of the study.

Conclusions: We concluded that probiotics have beneficial effects on both behavioral and GI manifestations of ASD. Probiotics (a non-pharmacological and relatively risk-free option) could be recommended for children with ASD as an adjuvant therapy. At this stage, this study is a single center with a small number of patients and a great deal of additional wide-scale randomized controlled trials are needed to critically confirm the efficacy of probiotics in ASD.

Trial registration number: UMIN-CTR Study Design: Trial Number UMIN000026157.

Keywords: Autism; Children; Neurodevelopmental; Probiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Egypt
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus
  • Male
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Tests