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SPECIALITY





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        The investigators analyzed
        the samples by metagenomic
        sequencing, which looks at the
        entire genome of microbial species
        rather than short genetic barcodes
        (as with 16S analysis). It also
        provides gene-level information
        rather than just species-level
        information, and provides a
        more accurate representation of
        microbiome composition than 16S
        analysis, a technique used in many
        of the earlier studies linking the
        microbiome to autism.

        “We also carefully accounted for
        diet in all our analyses, along with
        age and sex,” says first author
        Chloe Yap, an MD-PhD student
        who works with Gratten. “The         contributions prior to ASD          Additional funding support was
        microbiome is strongly affected      diagnosis, nor the possibility      provided by the Australian National
        by the environment, which is why     that diet-related changes in the    Health and Medical Research
        we designed our study with two       microbiome have a feedback          Council, the Australian Research
        comparison groups.”                  effect on behavior. Another is that   Council, and the University of
                                             they could only account for the     Queensland.
        Based on their analysis, the         possible effect of antibiotics on the
        researchers found limited evidence   microbiome by excluding those       Story Source:
        for a direct association of autism   taking these medications at the     Materials provided by Cell Press.
        with the microbiome. However,        time of stool collection. Finally, no   Note: Content may be edited for
        they did find a highly significant   comparable datasets are currently   style and length.
        association of autism with diet      available to confirm the findings.
        and that an autism diagnosis                                             Journal Reference:
        was associated with less-            “We hope that our findings          1. Chloe X. Yap, Anjali K. Henders,
        diverse diet and poorer dietary      encourage others in the autism      Gail A. Alvares, David L.A. Wood,
        quality. Moreover, psychometric      research community to routinely     Lutz Krause, Gene W. Tyson,
        measures of degree of autistic       collect metadata in “omics”         Restuadi Restuadi, Leanne Wallace,
        traits (including restricted interests,   studies to account for important   Tiana McLaren, Narelle K. Hansell,
        social communication difficulties,   (but often underappreciated)        Dominique Cleary, Rachel Grove,
        and sensory sensitivity) and         potential confounders such as       Claire Hafekost, Alexis Harun, Helen
        polygenic scores (representing       diet,” Gratten says. “Our results   Holdsworth, Rachel Jellett, Feroza
        a genetic proxy) for ASD and         also put the spotlight on nutrition   Khan, Lauren P. Lawson, Jodie
        impulsive/compulsive/repetitive      for children diagnosed with autism,   Leslie, Mira Levis Frenk, Anne Masi,
        behaviors were also related to a     which is a clinically important (but   Nisha E. Mathew, Melanie Muniandy,
        less-diverse diet.                   underrecognized) contributor to     Michaela Nothard, Jessica L. Miller,
                                             overall health and wellbeing.”      Lorelle Nunn, Gerald Holtmann,
        “Taken together, the data support                                        Lachlan T. Strike, Greig I. de
        a strikingly simple and intuitive    The researchers plan to generate    Zubicaray, Paul M. Thompson, Katie
        model, whereby autism-related        new data in a larger sample to      L. McMahon, Margaret J. Wright,
        traits promote restricted dietary    replicate their findings.           Peter M. Visscher, Paul A. Dawson,
        preferences,” Yap says. “This in turn                                    Cheryl Dissanayake, Valsamma
        leads to lower microbiome diversity   The authors acknowledge the        Eapen, Helen S. Heussler, Allan F.
        and more diarrhea-like stool.”       financial support of the Cooperative   McRae, Andrew J.O. Whitehouse,
                                             Research Centre for Living with     Naomi R. Wray, Jacob Gratten.
        The researchers acknowledge          Autism (Autism CRC), established    Autism-related dietary preferences
        several limitations to the current   and supported under the Australian   mediate autism-gut microbiome
        work. One is that the design of the   Government’s Cooperative           associations. Cell, 2021; DOI:
        study can’t rule out microbiome      Research Centres Program.           10.1016/j.cell.2021.10.015



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