Association Between Gut Microbiota and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jul 17;10:473. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00473. eCollection 2019.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by stereotyped behavior and deficits in communication and social interactions. Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction is an ASD-associated comorbidity, implying a potential role of the gut microbiota in ASD GI pathophysiology. Several recent studies found that autistic individuals harbor an altered bacterial gut microbiota. In some cases, remodeling the gut microbiota by antibiotic administration and microbiota transfer therapy reportedly alleviated the symptoms of ASD. However, there is little consensus on specific bacterial species that are similarly altered across individual studies. The aim of this study is to summarize previously published data and analyze the alteration of the relative abundance of bacterial genera in the gut microbiota in controls and individuals with ASD using meta-analysis. We analyzed nine studies, including 254 patients with ASD, and found that children with ASD had lower percentages of Akkermansia, Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, and Parabacteroides and a higher percentage of Faecalibacterium in the total detected microflora compared to controls. In contrast, children with ASD had lower abundance of Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, Bacteroides, and Bifidobacterium and higher abundance of Lactobacillus. This meta-analysis suggests an association between ASD and alteration of microbiota composition and warrants additional prospective cohort studies to evaluate the association of bacterial changes with ASD symptoms, which would provide further evidence for the precise microbiological treatment of ASD.

Keywords: GI problems; autism spectrum disorder; children; gut microbiota; meta-analysis; microflora.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review