Probiotics and Autism

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The role of the gut and its incumbant immune sytem in the development, and management of autism has attracted considerable interest over the last few years. In response to this, I and 4 colleagues wrote a review paper on this subject and It was published in Oct 2011. Entitled; The Potential Role of Probiotics in the Management of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders we have made it free to access, so if this is an area of interest for you, why not visit and read about the role of probiotics as we currently understand them?

In the article we discuss the potential role of probiotics in the promotion of the immunoglobulin SIgA, extraordinary amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA) are produced in the intestinal mucosa and secreted into the human gastrointestinal tract each day.[1] IgA production is driven largely in response to mucosal antigens encountered by gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Although the actual specificity and breadth of the antigenic repertoire of secretory IgA (SIgA) are unknown, it is clear that secretory antibodies are directed against at least two broad classes of antigens. The first is associated with enteric pathogens and their virulence determinants, such as toxins. Evidence for this is provided by fecal IgA–reactivity profiles from individuals who reside in regions where enteric diseases are endemic.

The second broad class of antigens recognized by SIgA is associated with the intestinal microbiota (or commensal microflora). In experimental animal models (e.g., gnotobiotic mice), commensal bacteria are potent inducers of secretory antibodies; in humans, it is estimated that between 25 and 75% of intestinal bacteria are coated with SIgA.[2] By virtue of its ability to neutralize enteric pathogens and shape the commensal microbiota, SIgA plays a profound role in intestinal homeostasis. Human health is inextricably linked to the gut microbiota, intestinal homeostasis, and mucosal immunity. IgA is at the centre of this dynamic.

For example: Certain SIgA antibodies have been shown to directly quench bacterial virulence, whereas others mediate the retro translocation and uptake of SIgA–immune complexes by mucosal dendritic cells and result in the subsequent down regulation of pro inflammatory responses normally associated with pathogens and allergic antigens.[3]

It has been long known that antibody deficiencies including SIgA deficiency[4] is commonly found in subsets of individuals diagnosed on the spectrum and that there is a behavioural association.[5] For over 20 years I have been manipulating this protein to alter behaviour and functionality.


[1] Mantis NJ. Rediscovering IgA. Mucosal Immunol. 2011 Nov;4(6):588-9. doi: 10.1038/mi.2011.42. View Abstract

[2] Suzuki, K. et al. Aberrant expansion of segmented filamentous bacteria in IgA-deficient gut. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 1981–1986 (2004). View Abstract

[3] Mantis, N.J., Rol, N. & Corthésy, B. Secretory IgA’s complex roles in immunity and mucosal homeostasis in the gut. Mucosal Immunol. 4, 603–611 (2011). View Abstract

[4] Warren RP, Odell JD, Warren WL, Burger RA, Maciulis A, Daniels WW, Torres AR. Brief report: immunoglobulin A deficiency in a subset of autistic subjects. J Autism Dev Disord. 1997 Apr;27(2):187-92.

[5] Heuer L, Ashwood P, Schauer J, Goines P, Krakowiak P, Hertz-Picciotto I, Hansen R, Croen LA, Pessah IN, Van de Water J. Reduced levels of immunoglobulin in children with autism correlates with behavioral symptoms. Autism Res. 2008 Oct;1(5):275-83. View Abstract


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