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Researchers Develop Blood Test for Autism, Show Gut Bacteria are Linked with ASD

Update Date: Jan 30, 2013 08:59 AM EST

Researchers have now developed a blood test for autism that can screen the condition. The study team from Western and the University of Arkansas found that certain bacteria species are found in guts of people with autism and their presence can be a sign of the condition.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), In the US, 1 in 88 children and 1 in every 54 boys is born with autism.

"Autism spectrum disorders affect up to one in 88 individuals. And the number appears to be increasing. Many have digestive and metabolic issues, but how they may relate to ASD behaviours and the increase of occurrence were unclear," Dr. Derrick MacFabe of University of Western Ontario.

Previous research has shown that people with autism utilize energy differently than people without the condition. The new study takes the finding a step forward by saying that this difference isn't just due to genetic factors, but also presence of certain micro-biome in these people.

Studies have shown the genetic changes in people with autism don't just affect the brain, but also other systems like immune, digestive and energy usage of the cells. The difference in energy usage is due to change in the way the mitochondria (the energy factory of the cell) functions in these people.

The study included 213 children; researchers found that 17 percent of children in the study group had a distinct set of blood markers (called acyl-carnitines) that showed difference in way fat was being used. Researchers also found that levels of glutathione lower than what is seen other people without the condition, showing an abnormal use of energy in the cells, according to a news release.

"This study suggests that autism in some patients can arise from alterations in mitochondrial function and fat metabolism following environmental exposure to propionic acid produced from ASD associated gut bacteria," MacFabe added.

The study is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

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