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Early Autism Diagnosis Possible Through Stool Samples

Early Autism Diagnosis Possible Through Stool Samples

Scientists have discovered variations in gut microbes between autistic and non-autistic children, which could pave the way for a simple stool test to diagnose autism early.

Presently, autism diagnosis can take three to four years, with most children being diagnosed at age six. Professor Qi Su's team has developed a method to diagnose autism in children under four using a panel of microbiome biomarkers.

Autism rates have increased due to heightened awareness and expanded diagnostic criteria. In the UK, approximately one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. While genetic factors are significant, other contributors include older parents, birth complications, and environmental exposures.

Su's team examined stool samples from 1,627 children aged one to 13. They identified 51 types of bacteria, 18 viruses, 14 archaea, seven fungi, and a dozen metabolic pathways that were altered in autistic children. Through machine learning, they were able to accurately identify autistic children with 82% accuracy.

The study indicates that the microbiome may influence the severity of autism, potentially enabling personalized interventions such as dietary changes or probiotics to enhance gut diversity.

Dr. Dominic Farsi acknowledges the potential of this approach but emphasizes the need for further research. Dr. Elizabeth Lund stresses the importance of quicker, more automated diagnostic methods to address current backlogs and clinician shortages.

The team is currently investigating whether stool samples can diagnose autism in one-year-old children.

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