The Human Gut Microbiome as a Potential Factor in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 25;23(3):1363. doi: 10.3390/ijms23031363.


The high prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders among autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients has prompted scientists to look into the gut microbiota as a putative trigger in ASD pathogenesis. Thus, many studies have linked the gut microbial dysbiosis that is frequently observed in ASD patients with the modulation of brain function and social behavior, but little is known about this connection and its contribution to the etiology of ASD. This present review highlights the potential role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in autism. In particular, it focuses on how gut microbiota dysbiosis may impact gut permeability, immune function, and the microbial metabolites in autistic people. We further discuss recent findings supporting the possible role of the gut microbiome in initiating epigenetic modifications and consider the potential role of this pathway in influencing the severity of ASD. Lastly, we summarize recent updates in microbiota-targeted therapies such as probiotics, prebiotics, dietary supplements, fecal microbiota transplantation, and microbiota transfer therapy. The findings of this paper reveal new insights into possible therapeutic interventions that may be used to reduce and cure ASD-related symptoms. However, well-designed research studies using large sample sizes are still required in this area of study.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; epigenetics; gut microbiome; gut–brain axis; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / microbiology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain-Gut Axis / physiology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dysbiosis / metabolism
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics


  • Prebiotics