Autism-related dietary preferences mediate autism-gut microbiome associations. Cell 184, 5916–5931, November 24, 2021, Elsevier Inc., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.10.015
Chloe X. Yap, Anjali K. Henders, Gail A. Alvares, David L.A. Wood, Lutz Krause, Gene W. Tyson, Restuadi Restuadi, Leanne Wallace, Tiana McLaren, Narelle K. Hansell, Dominique Cleary, Rachel Grove, Claire Hafekost, Alexis Harun, Helen Holdsworth, Rachel Jellett, Feroza Khan, Lauren P. Lawson, Jodie Leslie, Mira Levis Frenk, Anne Masi, Nisha E. Mathew, Melanie Muniandy, Michaela Nothard, Jessica L. Miller, Lorelle Nunn, Gerald Holtmann, Lachlan T. Strike, Greig I. de Zubicaray, Paul M. Thompson, Katie L. McMahon, Margaret J. Wright, Peter M. Visscher, Paul A. Dawson, Cheryl Dissanayake, Valsamma Eapen, and Helen.
• Mater Research Institute, The University of Queensland, Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia
• Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
• Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Long Pocket, Queensland, Australia
• Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
• Microba Life Sciences, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
• Centre for Microbiome Research, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Translational Research Institute, Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia
• Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
• Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
• School of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
• Child Health Research Centre, The University of Queensland, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
• Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
• Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Health and Behavioural Science, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
• Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia
• School of Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia
• Imaging Genetics Center, Mark & Mary Stevens Institute for Neuroimaging & Informatics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
• School of Clinical Sciences, Centre for Biomedical Technologies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
• Centre for Advanced Imaging, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
• Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry Southwest Sydney, Ingham Institute, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
• Child Development Program, Children’s Health Queensland, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
This study was made possible by funding from the following sources: the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council, the University of Queensland, the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), Mater Research and the Mater Foundation, and in part at the Translational Research Institute (TRI), which is supported by a grant from the Australian Government.
1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – A developmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours.
2. Gut microbiome – The collection of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that live in the digestive tract and contribute to various aspects of human health.
3. Mediating factor – A variable that clarifies the relationship between two other variables; in this instance, dietary choices serve as a mediating factor between ASD and the gut microbiome composition.
4. Metagenomics- The study of genetic materials by a method called sequencing
The authors of this study conducted a detailed stool metagenomics study of 247 children from the Australian Autism Biobank (AAB) and the Queensland Twin Adolescent Brain (QTAB) project.
Many studies have suggested potential contribution of the gut microbiome to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, most of these suggestions are either based on the finding from animal studies or human ASD microbiome studies that have yielded inconsistent results, likely due to underpowered study designs. Nonetheless, based on the article, the overall relationship between the microbiome and ASD diagnosis has not been quantified.
Extensive study of well powered dataset to detect microbiome associations with traits such as age, dietary intake, and stool consistency concluded that the microbiome differences in ASD may reflect dietary preferences that relate to diagnostic features, as opposed to the claims that the microbiome has a driving role in ASD.
In simple terms, this study concluded that the ASD traits like restrictive/repetitive traits and sensory preferences, leads to decreased diversity of food intake, resulting in decreased diversity in gut microbiome and not vice versa.
This study emphasizes the importance of considering human-specific factors, such as dietary preferences, when examining the relationship between ASD and the gut microbiome.
The findings from this study underscore the potential limitations of animal models in replicating complex human factors and conditions. By recognizing these limitations, researchers can better understand the need for alternative methods that can provide more accurate and relevant insights into human health and well-being.
In this context, the study serves as an example of how human-derived data, such as that obtained from studying gut microbiomes in ASD individuals, can offer valuable information that may not be directly obtainable from animal experiments. Such research not only supports the development of more effective interventions for individuals with ASD but also aligns with the goals of humane research organisations to promote ethical and scientifically valid research methods.