Interventions on Microbiota: Where Do We Stand on a Gut-Brain Link in Autism? A Systematic Review

Nutrients. 2022 Jan 20;14(3):462. doi: 10.3390/nu14030462.


The alteration of the microbiota-gut-brain axis has been recently recognized as a critical modulator of neuropsychiatric health and a possible factor in the etiopathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This systematic review offers practitioners an overview of the potential therapeutic options to modify dysbiosis, GI symptoms, and ASD severity by modulating the microbiota-gut-brain axis in ASD, taking into consideration limits and benefits from current findings. Comprehensive searches of PubMed, Scopus, the Web of Science Core Collection, and EMBASE were performed from 2000 to 2021, crossing terms referred to ASD and treatments acting on the microbiota-gut-brain axis. A total of 1769 publications were identified, of which 19 articles met the inclusion criteria. Data were extracted independently by two reviewers using a preconstructed form. Despite the encouraging findings, considering the variability of the treatments, the samples size, the duration of treatment, and the tools used to evaluate the outcome of the examined trials, these results are still partial. They do not allow to establish a conclusive beneficial effect of probiotics and other interventions on the symptoms of ASD. In particular, the optimal species, subspecies, and dosages have yet to be identified. Considering the heterogeneity of ASD, double-blind, randomized, controlled trials and treatment tailored to ASD characteristics and host-microbiota are recommended.

Keywords: ASD; fecal microbiota transplantation; gastrointestinal; microbiota; prebiotics; probiotics; psychobiotics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder* / therapy
  • Brain
  • Dysbiosis
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic