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Pre- and probiotics in the management of children with autism and gut issues: a review of the current evidence


Manipulation of the gut microbiome offers a promising treatment option for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for whom functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) are a common comorbidity. Both ASD and FGIDs have been linked to dysfunction of the microbiome-gut-brain (MGB) axis. Dysfunction of this bidirectional network has the ability to impact multiple host processes including gastrointestinal (GI) function, mood and behaviour. Prebiotic and probiotic supplementation aims to produce beneficial shifts within the gut environment, resulting in favourable changes to microbial metabolite production and gastrointestinal function. The aim of this review is to investigate the gut microbiome as a therapeutic target for children with ASD. Evidence for the utility of prebiotics, probiotics or synbiotics (i.e., prebiotic + probiotic) among this cohort is examined. Electronic databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Medline and were searched using keywords or phrases to review the literature from 1 January 2010 to 30 October 2020. Findings suggest limited, but preliminary evidence of efficacy in relieving GI distress, improving ASD-associated behaviours, altering microbiota composition, and reducing inflammatory potential.

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Author information




LKM: Conception of the work, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data, drafting the work and critical revision of content; ensuring accuracy/integrity of the work, final approval of the version of work to be published. PSWD: Conception and design of the review topic and scope, critical review of the work, editing and feedback; ensuring accuracy/integrity of the work. Final approval of the version of work to be published.

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Correspondence to Leanne K. Mitchell.

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Mitchell, L.K., Davies, P.S.W. Pre- and probiotics in the management of children with autism and gut issues: a review of the current evidence. Eur J Clin Nutr (2021).

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