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World Autism Awareness Day 2019: Autism And Digestive System Linked, Says Research

On World Autism Awareness Day, a new research finding could promise hope for the management and treatment of autism. A group of Chinese researchers has revealed a possible link between autism and intestinal health.

Updated: April 2, 2019 12:11 PM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Upneet Pansare

world autism day 2019
Currently there is no cure for autism (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Could a possible treatment of autism lie in the intestinal flora? A new research in journal Cell Host and Microbe has shed light on how the absence of a certain protein in flies causes intestinal flora imbalance. This makes these flies show symptoms similar to autism in humans. According to the researchers quoted in Xinhua, this finding by the Nanjing Medical University in China could possibly lead to the treatment of autism based on digestion and immune activities. There have been several efforts in the past to discover treatment options or autism but till now, there hasn’t been much progress. This World Autism Awareness Day 2019, this offers new hope for the treatment of autism.

What the new research on autism says 

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It was observed that when protein KDM5 was deficient in vinegar flies, they exhibited communication impairment or symptoms that are similar to those seen in autistic individuals – they kept their distance from one another, were slow to respond and had reduced direct contact with other flies.

The researchers said that without the presence of this protein, ‘the flies’ intestinal mucosal barriers were damaged and their intestinal flora was imbalanced.’ The researchers drew parallels between the intestinal health of the flies and that of people with autism, many of whom are known to suffer from serious intestinal illnesses, like diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. The study also elaborated on how using antibiotics or feeding lactobacillus plantarum to flies could improve social behaviour as well as the lifespan of some KDM5-deficient flies.

Previous research on gut health and autism

A previous research by the scientists from the California Institute Technology (Caltech) published in the journal Cell, studied how changes in the gut bacteria could bring about changes in the behaviour of mice and that gastrointestinal problems could contribute to particular symptoms in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Can a gluten-free diet help autistics? 

There isn’t much evidence on the effectiveness of a gluten-free diet and autism. In fact, in some cases, a gluten-free diet has often been recommended as an effective dietary intervention for the treatment of autism. However, despite the fact there needs to be more research on this subject, there has been a lot of discussion on this. Please note, however, that any kind of treatment or medication for autism will need expert advice and that what works for one autistic child may not always work for others.

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