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Mom’s Microbiome and Autism Risk

The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that naturally live inside us. The microbiome has vital importance to good health. According to a new publication by researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, autism risk is determined by health of mom's gut. The prevention of autism could be as simple by modifying the expectant mother’s diet or taking custom prebiotics.

Autism is a complex set of developmental disorders. It includes a wide range of symptoms that may be mild or can cause severe impairment. Autism can affect a child’s ability to communicate and socialize with others.

The UVA researchers were able to use their discovery to prevent the development of autism-like neurodevelopmental disorders in laboratory mice. Halting the development of such disorders was by blocking an inflammatory molecule produced by the immune system. This targeted molecule is interleukin-17a; it offers a potential avenue for the prevention of autism. However, the researchers caution that this approach would be much more complex because of potential side effects.

“We determined that the microbiome is a key contributor in determining susceptibility [to autism-like disorders], so it suggests that you could target either the maternal microbiome or this inflammatory molecule, IL-17a,” said lead researcher John Lukens, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience. “You could also use this [IL-17a] as a biomarker for early diagnosis.”  University of Virginia Health System