The Link between Gut Flora Disruption in Infancy and Later Diagnosis of Autism and ADHD

The Link between Gut Flora Disruption in Infancy and Later Diagnosis of Autism and ADHD

Recent research done by the University of Florida and Linkoping University in Sweden found that disturbed gut flora during the first years of life is associated with diagnoses such as autism and ADHD later in life. 

The study examined gut flora composition and a large variety of other factors in infants, in relation to the development of the children's nervous system.  The researchers found many biological markers that seem to be associated with future neurological development disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder and intellectual disability.

"The remarkable aspect of the work is that these biomarkers are found at birth in (umbilical) cord blood or in the child's stool at one year of age over a decade prior to the diagnosis," says Eric W Triplett, professor at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science at the University of Florida, USA, one of the researchers who led the study.

"We can see in the study that there are clear differences in the intestinal flora already during the first year of life between those who develop autism or ADHD and those who don't. We've found associations with some factors that affect gut bacteria, such as antibiotic treatment during the child's first year, which is linked to an increased risk of these diseases," says Johnny Ludvigsson, senior professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University, who led the study together with Eric W. Triplett.

They found that the presence or the absence of different bacteria increased the risk of future diagnosis.

Overall, we saw deficits in these bacteria in children who later received a developmental neurological diagnosis." Angelica Ahrens, Assistant Scientist in Eric Triplett's research group at the University of Florida and first author of the study.

It is not certain that the relationships that the research team found in the Swedish children can be generalized to other populations.  These issues need to be studied in other groups as well.

Restoration of the microbiome in infants may decrease the risk of associated diseases.

The research is at an early stage and more studies are needed, but the discovery that many biomarkers for future developmental neurological disorders can be observed at an early age opens up the possibility of developing screening protocols and preventive measures in the long term.

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Source of article:

Linköping University - More than 16,000 children born in 1997-1999, representing the general population, have been followed from birth into their twenties. Of these, 1,197 children, corresponding to 7.3 percent, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder or intellectual disability.

Journal reference:

Ahrens, A. P., et al. (2024). Infant microbes and metabolites point to childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Cell. 


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