Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Gut Microbiota

Nutrients. 2019 Feb 28;11(3):521. doi: 10.3390/nu11030521.


In recent years, there has been an emerging interest in the possible role of the gut microbiota as a co-factor in the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), as many studies have highlighted the bidirectional communication between the gut and brain (the so-called "gut-brain axis"). Accumulating evidence has shown a link between alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota and both gastrointestinal and neurobehavioural symptoms in children with ASD. The aim of this narrative review was to analyse the current knowledge about dysbiosis and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in ASD and assess the current evidence for the role of probiotics and other non-pharmacological approaches in the treatment of children with ASD. Analysis of the literature showed that gut dysbiosis in ASD has been widely demonstrated; however, there is no single distinctive profile of the composition of the microbiota in people with ASD. Gut dysbiosis could contribute to the low-grade systemic inflammatory state reported in patients with GI comorbidities. The administration of probiotics (mostly a mixture of Bifidobacteria, Streptococci and Lactobacilli) is the most promising treatment for neurobehavioural symptoms and bowel dysfunction, but clinical trials are still limited and heterogeneous. Well-designed, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are required to validate the effectiveness of probiotics in the treatment of ASD and to identify the appropriate strains, dose, and timing of treatment.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; brain; gut microbiota; microbiota transfer therapy; probiotic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / microbiology*
  • Dysbiosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans