Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term associated with a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. The etiology of ASD is not yet completely understood; however, a disorder in the gut-brain axis is emerging as a prominent factor leading to autism. To identify the taxonomic composition and markers associated with ASD, we compared the fecal microbiota of 30 ASD children diagnosed using Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score, DSM-5 approved AIIMS-modified INCLEN Diagnostic Tool for Autism Spectrum Disorder (INDT-ASD), and Indian Scale for Assessment of Autism (ISAA) tool, with family-matched 24 healthy children from Indian population using next-generation sequencing (NGS) of 16S rRNA gene amplicon. Our study showed prominent dysbiosis in the gut microbiome of ASD children, with higher relative abundances of families Lactobacillaceae, Bifidobacteraceae, and Veillonellaceae, whereas the gut microbiome of healthy children was dominated by the family Prevotellaceae. Comparative meta-analysis with a publicly available dataset from the US population consisting of 20 ASD and 20 healthy control samples from children of similar age, revealed a significantly high abundance of genus Lactobacillus in ASD children from both the populations. The results reveal the microbial dysbiosis and an association of selected Lactobacillus species with the gut microbiome of ASD children.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD); Gastrointestinal symptoms; Gut microbial dysbiosis; Gut-brain axis; Indian children.