Autism-spectrum disorders (ASDs) refer to the collection of neurobiological diseases that affect social interactions. They may have a gastrointestinal origin.
About this article
ASDs include autism, of course, but also Asperger syndrome, Landau-Kleffner syndrome, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified).
Boys affected 4 times as much as girls
Around the world, autism-spectrum disorders affect around one child in 160,2 and affect boys 4 times as often as girls. In spite of the diversity of the disorders, ASDs have characteristics in common: communication problems, alterations in social relationships, limited interests, and behavioral problems.
Indicative signs to watch for
Certain indicative signs should lead to consultations: a child who is indifferent to the sounds around them, who does not point with their finger, who avoids eye contact, who doesn’t react to separations or reunions, whose motor activities are limited and repetitive, etc. Only a specialist can suggest or eliminate an ASD diagnosis and help you tailor treatment.
Causes still unknown
Although the causes of autism-spectrum disorders remain unknown, researchers have closely studied the causes related to genetic or environmental factors. Clinical studies have, furthermore, shown the existence of dysbioses in autistic children,5 associated with a change in metabolic activity in the intestinal microbiota.
No treatment to date
This discovery leads to the idea that correcting imbalances in the digestive ecosystem could improve behavioral anomalies in ASDs and open new therapeutic perspectives. Clinical studies targeting the biological connections between autism and intestinal microbiota are being evaluated. To date, no medication cures autism-spectrum disorders; treatment tailored to the child’s needs can, however, considerably improve their quality of life.
- World Health Organization (OMS) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders
- L'autisme. Inserm https://www.inserm.fr/dossier/autisme/
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- Krajmalnik-Brown R, Lozupone C, Kang DW, et al. Gut bacteria in children with autism spectrum disorders: challenges and promise of studying how a complex community influences a complex disease. Microb Ecol Health Dis 2015; 26 : 26914.
- Yap IKS, Angley M, Veselkov KA, et al. Urinary metabolic phenotyping differentiates children with autism from their unaffected siblings and agematched controls. J Proteome Res 2010 ; 9 : 2996-3004.
- Altieri L, Neri C, Sacco R, et al. Urinary p-cresol is elevated in small children with severe autism spectrum disorder. Biomarkers 2011 ; 16 : 252-60.
- Hsiao EY, McBride SW, Hsien S, et al. Microbiota modulat behavioral and physiological abnormalities associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Cell 2013; 155 : 1451-63.
- New clinical study to focus on gut, autism connection - Baylor College of Medicine https://www.bcm.edu/news/pathology-and-immunology/clinical-study-focus-on-gut-autism-connection