Baby Bumps—or Rather, What’s In Mom’s Gut—Hold the Key to Autism Risk

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Researchers have made a breakthrough discovery with a new study that has found a link between mom’s gut health and autism. The study’s findings suggest that probiotics could play a major role in helping to lower the risk of developing autism in kids.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia has found a link between gut inflammation during pregnancy and the risk of autism-like neurological disorders. Although science is just beginning to understand how gut bacteria is connected to the central nervous system and immune system, this research could be one of the first steps to learning more.

Based on their findings, the researchers believe there are two possible ways to treat gut inflammation during pregnancy and reduce the risk of autism in growing babies. One treatment involves regulating a mom’s diet and adding probiotics. The other treatment is to block the molecule that cause inflammations, which is a more risky process.

“In terms of translating our work to humans, I think the next big step would be to identify features of the microbiome in pregnant mothers that correlate with autism risk,” lead researcher John Lukens of the University of Virginia Department of Neuroscience told Science Daily. “I think the really important thing is to figure out what kind of things can be used to modulate the microbiome in the mother as effectively and safely as we can.”

Lukens reassures expectant moms that just because they experience gut inflammation during pregnancy does not automatically mean their babies will develop autism. “It’s important to mention, just because you have an inflammatory reaction during pregnancy doesn’t mean you are going to have a child with autism or another neurodevelopmental disorder,” he told The Roanoke Times.

More research needs to be done, but if researchers are able to pinpoint exactly which microbes are linked to the risk of autism development they will be able to lower the risk through preventative treatments like the right combination of probiotics.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Olliss via Unsplash

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