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Could the Link to Autism Be Found in Chemical-Causing Gut Bacteria?

Scientists find link to autism in gut bacteria
Photograph by Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

A new study is giving some more weight to previous claims that autism may be caused by certain bacteria found in the stomach.

The small study, conducted at Arizona State University, looked at gut bacteria in 23 children with autism and 21 children without, and learned that the fecal concentrations of certain metabolites (aka: chemicals produced by bacteria) differed significantly. Of the 56 different metabolites found in the children's feces, seven had differing concentrations.

So what does this all mean? Scientists say these metabolites could be affecting brain function.

"Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis," study study researcher Dae-Wook Kang in a statement. "We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function."

While the results have yet to be officially published, they were announced at a recent event for the American Society for Microbiology, where researchers were sure to note them as preliminary. But according to NBC News, those behind the study are looking for approval on further research, which would examine whether or not fecal transplants could actually change or affect autism symptoms.

Pretty fascinating.

You can read more about the study's findings here.

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