The Gut Microbiome in Autism
The existence of a link between the gut and autism is well established, yet mechanisms connecting the two remain poorly understood (Konstantynowicz et al., Er. J. Paediatr. Neurol 2012, Hsiao et al., Cell. 1023). A complete mapping of the microbial diversity across the autism spectrum could result in dramatic clinical and therapeutic advances. We have initiated a plan to sequence and analyze the microbiomes of young children with autism (2-7 year old) and age matched unaffected siblings (within 2 years). Leveraging social networks, our goal is to conduct a completely crowdsourced clinical trial that will enroll hundreds of internet-active families with autism quickly – in months instead of years. Participants submitted noninvasively collected samples from home as well as 2-5 min video of their child, giving us unprecedentedly broad 16S amplicon data, allowing us to search for a microbial community specific to ASD. In addition to looking at the microbial structure of the samples, we’re collecting saliva samples to genotype the participants. This study aims to improve our understanding of the link between microbiome functionality, genome variation, and ASD phenotype, and reveal the specific mechanisms by which the gut microbiome interacts with autism-related alleles to produce and modify ASD.