New microbiome study of autism gut

Ian Lipkin and colleagues at Columbia have just published results showing that half of the children with autism and GI dysfunction whose GI tracts were assayed by biopsy harbor the relatively obscure bacterium, Sutterella. None of the children with GI dysfunction but not autism were positive for this bug. The authors conclude that, “Sutterella is a major component of the microbiota in over half of the children with autism and GI dysfunction”. Previous studies of fecal bacteria found different bacterial species preferentially present in samples from autistic children. The Lipkin study sampled bacteria in biopsied GI epithelium, however. Previous studies also identified Sutterella in samples from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, it is not known whether this bug is a cause or a consequence of such inflammatory bowl disorders. Some normal adults are also positive for this bacterium.

Another important result from this study is the presence of antibodies directed against Sutterella specifically in the circulation of the autism cases. This suggests, but does not prove, that the bug could be causing an infection. Since a defective epithelial barrier has previously been found in some autism GI samples, it is possible that the immune reaction occurred without an actual, proliferating infection. Another interesting question is whether there is a deficit in the composition in the normal, commensal bacterial composition of the gut in autism, and Sutterella simply opportunistically invaded that empty niche. Also important is the question of whether the anti-Sutterella antibodies are causing problems in these children. Such antibodies would presumably not be able to invade the brain, but could possibly bind to peripheral nerves by cross-reacting with an epitope that is shared between the bug and the nerve. This could have an effect on pain or other sensory perceptions. Much speculation, but precious little further information is available at this time. Conclusions are further limited by the lack of such biopsies from controls and autistics without GI problems. This is where animal models become particularly important.

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9 Responses to New microbiome study of autism gut

  1. blackheart says:

    Hi Paul

    Read some more work on your area – fascinating .

    What are your thought on this paper also recently published and paper above.

    A Comprehensive Evaluation of Colonic Mucosal Isolates of Sutterella wadsworthensis from Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    Mukhopadhya et al

    http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0027076#abstract0

    (plosone links don’t work most of the time so may have to Google.)

    regards

    • phpatterson says:

      Thx for the question Blackheart. The paper from Mukhopadhya et al. from Scotland provides compelling evidence that Sutterella wadsworthensis is unlikely to play a role in inflammatory bowel disease. Thus, its presence does not necessarily connote inflammation. Importantly, they found that 86% of control adults harbor this bacterium. On the other hand, the new Lipkin paper reported that children with GI disorders but without autism were negative for Sutterella. I’m not sure if this is a species issue or what. I’ll ask Lipkin for a comment.

      • Blackheart says:

        Hi Paul

        From the paper “Utilizing these samples, a newly designed PCR was developed, to study the prevalence of this bacterium in adult patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). ”

        Do you have any thoughts on whether there may differences in adult and child populations ?
        Is there any confounding ? if the researchers studied UC rather than Crohn’s.

        • phpatterson says:

          Thx Blackheart. I asked Ian Lipkin for his thoughts on your que and he said he’d get back to me after he read the article, but has not yet done so. The two studies differ in the age of the subjects and, importantly, the precise source of the samples – one from the gut lumen and one from the lining of the gut. The latter is known to contain different bacteria from the former, and in Crohn’s disease, the key bug is found in the lining not the lumen (as I recall).

  2. Very interesting. People are treating Crohn’s disease with cannabis, and also treating autism with cannabis. Could there be a connection?

  3. marlena says:

    I have a funny feeling that its an engeered vibrio bacteria used to clean up the ocean after oil spills in 1990 and 2010. The biggest numbers of autism cases are placed closest to coastal line. Vibrio loves to consume oil. Also uses foods like gluten, casein, soy, aspartame to built bridges to attach their toxines (f.e. metaloproteinase) to heavy metals like mercury in childrens bodies. All these foods are the excluded from childrens dietetary recomendations. All the toxins remain in the body as heavy metals. All that causes foggy brains not some opiates. Estrogen protects from Vibrio which would explain significally less cases of autism among girls…. marlena.dembniak73@gmail.com

  4. Angela Biggs says:

    This article and research is exciting. Autism has either has antibodies that cross react or sutterella is like e.coli or strep that have learned how to cross barriers. If sutterella can cross the stomach lining to get the peripherial nerve then like e.coli it may get across the blood brain barrier. I have a blog where i am looking at all autoimmune diseases as a result of cross-targeting…but the antibodies of autism have to get across the BBB…some how. angelabiggs.blogspot.com

  5. Angela Biggs says:

    sutterella can cross the intestinal lining not stomach….i said the wrong thing..

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