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Ann Nutr Metab. 2020 Jan 24:1-14. doi: 10.1159/000505363. [Epub ahead of print]

Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Gut Microbiota in Children: A Systematic Review.

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Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, NHS Grampian, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
Royal Cornhill Hospital, NHS Grampian, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
Microbiome Research Centre, St George and Sutherland Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Glasgow Children's Hospital, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom,



Differences in microbiota composition in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to unaffected siblings and healthy controls have been reported in various studies. This study aims to systematically review the existing literature concerning the role of the gut microbiota in ASD.


An extensive literature search was conducted using MEDLINE and EMBASE databases to identify studies (January 1966 through July 2019).


A total of 28 papers were included. The studies ranged from 12 to 104 participants who were aged between 2 and 18 years from various geographical areas. Majority of studies included faecal samples; however, 4 studies examined mucosal biopsies from different sites. The heterogeneity in ASD diagnostic methodology, gut site sampled and laboratory methods used made meta-analysis inappropriate. Species reported to be significantly higher in abundance in autistic children included Clostridium, Sutterella, Desulfovibrio and Lactobacillus. The findings are however inconsistent across studies. In addition, -potential confounding effects of antimicrobial use, gastrointestinal symptoms and diet on the gut microbiota are unclear due to generally poor assessment of these factors.


It is clear that the gut microbiota is altered in ASD, although further exploration is needed on whether this is a cause or an effect of the condition.


Autism spectrum disorder; Gastrointestinal; Gut; Microbiome; Microbiota

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