Mice with altered intestines were less social and more anxious
Leaky intestines and an abnormal mix of gut microbes may contribute to autism symptoms, a study of mice suggests.
A skewed mixture of intestinal microbes results in high levels of certain chemicals, including one similar to a compound found in the urine of some children with autism, researchers report in the Dec. 19 Cell. Mice with autism-like behaviors also have leaky intestines, which allow the chemicals to build up in the animals’ blood, the team found.
Giving the mice beneficial bacteria reduced gut leakiness and improved some abnormal behaviors, suggesting that some children with autism might benefit from probiotic treatments.
The study “really connects the dots on some scattered observations about kids with autism spectrum disorders,” says Alessio Fasano, a gut biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. While previous studies have also linked changes in