Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Autism, Gut Microbes, and Contradictory Research Findings

I just wrote a story for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative about a new study of the intestinal bacteria of autistic children. A team of Australian researchers studied more than 50 children with autism and discovered no significant differences between their gut microbes and the bacteria present in the digestive systems of their typically developing siblings.

The study contradicts some earlier research that has found that autistic children have microbiomes that differ from those of other kids. For instance, one study concluded that autistic children have elevated levels of Clostridia bacteria, and another detected Sutterella bacteria in the guts of children with autism but not in typically developing controls. The new Australian study, however, found no differences whatsoever in the microbes present in fecal samples from children with autism and those of control children. In my story, I explore some possible reasons why this one new study may not match earlier ones, but in the course of doing my research and reporting, I began thinking about the larger issue of why we see so many contradictory research findings, across many different fields.
 Click HERE to read the whole story at Wonderland

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