Research published in Cell, led by Mater Research and The University of Queensland, shows that dietary restriction drives microbiome diversity changes in autistic individuals.
In the largest study in the field to date, researchers analysed stool samples using Microba’s metagenomic analysis, alongside other clinical and biological measures, to identify associations between the gut microbiome and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The collaborative study examined the complex relationship between the microbiome, diet and other traits in autistic individuals, leveraging samples and dietary data of 247 children from the Australian Autism Biobank and Queensland Twin Adolescent Brain Project and involving more than 40 researchers across Australia.
Chloe Yap from Mater Research and The University of Queensland and lead author on the paper, explained that the research represents a critical advancement in developing an evidence base on the gut microbiome-autism link, and challenges existing findings within the field.
“With Microba’s expertise, we were able to achieve high-resolution taxonomic information about the microbiome, as well as the functional information, to really examine the microbiome community at a deeper level than has been done before to investigate what link – if any – may exist.”Chloe Yap, lead author
“While the data did not demonstrate a direct association between the microbiome and a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the quality of that data enabled us to find that behaviour and dietary preferences were driving the changes observed in the microbiome, with a less diverse diet resulting in a less diverse microbiome,” Ms Yap said.
Given the increasing coverage on changes observed in the gut microbiome of people on the autism spectrum, Dr Jake Gratten, senior study investigator and head of Mater Research’s Cognitive Healthy Genomics Group, said the results were significant.
“Microbiome-based interventions claiming to treat or minimise autistic traits are becoming more common, but there is yet to be convincing evidence that the microbiome drives autism,” Dr Gratten said.
“Our findings provide much needed clarity to parents and autistic people about the autism-microbiome link, something that was only possible using the latest technology. What our results highlight is that rather than relying on “fad” diets, we need to better support families at meal times,” he added.
Associate Professor Lutz Krause, Chief Scientific Officer at Microba and contributing author on the paper, said these results demonstrate the importance of high-quality research in investigating the microbiome and health connection.
“What we can see from this research is that precise and comprehensive measurement, with rich metadata associated with each sample, is critical in uncovering the complexity of the microbiome and elucidating the various factors that may be influencing the results,” he said.
“This level of precision is at the core of Microba’s approach, and it’s exciting to see our research partners making important new discoveries to advance the knowledge of how the microbiome is involved in health to improve people’s lives.”