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NIH Researcher Says YES to Microbiome Research

MicrobiomeBy Teresa Conrick

Katie Wright, whose son is the reason her parents started Autism Speaks, wrote about how NIH has a horrible track record on Autism research.  They give out grants for the same, old, archaic topics each passing year. Gene research has always been a favorite for them, even though as Katie reported, "less than 10% of ASD people have documented genetic diseases."  What the heck is wrong with doing REAL, biomedical research that will aid MANY more affected children and young adults?

I completely agree with Katie and thank her, and also want to thank a long-time commenter here on AoA for thinking about what I keep writing about here on AoA. Twyla sent me this very pertinent article on, of course, THE MICROBIOME, a favorite topic for me.  Thanks, Twyla, as it is important for us all:

Researchers Hunt for a Link Between Microbiome and Autism 

It's an interesting article showing how important the Microbiome is in Autism:

A study published in Cell in 2013 studied lab mice with ASD-like symptoms, such as avoiding social interaction and compulsive and repetitive behavior. Remarkably, after subjecting the mice to the human Bacteroides fragilis, the researchers noted the mice became less anxious and more social. The findings, wrote the authors, “support a gut-microbiome-brain connection in ASD and identify a potential probiotic therapy for GI and behavioral symptoms of autism"...There are no immediately clear distinctions by type or number between the microbiomes of children with autism and those without. The researchers are, however, detecting some subtle differences. Kids within families are the most similar to each other. But kids with ASD in different families have microbiomes that are more alike than the microbiomes of non-autistic children in different families.

 And it also included some great comments from an NIH researcher:

The microbiome is the hot thing to study now,” says Kevin Becker, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. “But I think that’s exciting; the research is very robust.”....In 2007, Becker was the first researcher to suggest that the microbiome might be connected to symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. In the decade since, researchers have accumulated more evidence  that the gastrointestinal tracts of children with ASD are often different. Depending on the survey, 60 to 90 percent have irritable bowel syndrome or have complained of diarrhea, stomachaches or gluten intolerance, which inflames the gut. For example, a study of 150 children published in 2006 found that 70 percent of kids with ASD suffered from gastrointestinal woes, compared to 42 percent of developmentally disabled children and 28 percent of children with no developmental disorder...

..But for scientists like Kevin Becker at the NIH, who is not involved in the project, the turn toward the microbiome in researching ASD is a positive development. “Genetics has been the focus for a long time and it often dominates the discussion,” he says. “Most autistic cases have no known genetic cause. Looking into these other paths is a welcome change.”

A "welcome change" is a perfect summation.  Genetics as "dominating the discussion" could not be more true.  My thanks to Kevin Becker for wanting to help families, something we do not see enough from NIH.  The Microbiome is becoming more of an integral part of regression in Autism.   It's the EFFECT, the regression that we see but the controversy continues as to WHAT is causing regression. 

In that theme, it's important to look at these terms and how they interplay:  ANTIBIOTICS, VACCINATIONS, GUT, MICROBIOME, IMMUNE SYSTEM, and BRAIN:

One critical note is that the gut microbiota can regulate not only the local intestinal immune system but also can have a profound influence on systemic immune responses......The gut microbiota that resides in the gastrointestinal tract provides essential health benefits to its host, particularly by regulating immune homeostasis. Moreover, it has recently become obvious that alterations of these gut microbial communities can cause immune dysregulation, leading to autoimmune disorders...........Antibiotic treatments, vaccinations and hygiene practices all can alter gut microbiota composition.........Given the intimate interplay between gut microbiota and the host immune system, it is not surprising that some members of the gut microbiota have been linked to autoimmune diseases.

That would be my daughter,  AUTISM and AUTOIMMUNITY.

Here is how this can relate to treating and preventing cases of Autism:

Anther big question is whether we can treat brain disorders, such as autism, by aiming therapies at the gut. One of the barriers to treating psychiatric and neurological disorders is that we often don't understand the underlying disease mechanisms; in other words not only what to target but where those targets are in the body. If the therapeutic targets are in the brain then it becomes particularly challenging because of the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels that protects the brain from harmful substances. But if a neurological condition actually originates in the gut, which we believe is the case for some individuals with autism, then delivering therapeutics is much easier. In my lab, we've been able to alter some of the symptoms associated with autism, such as repetitive behaviors, in mice by feeding them specific bacterial species. These bacteria modulate molecules in the gut and in the blood that affect the nervous system....

...There are at least three ways gut microbes are communicating with the brain: the first is directly through the vagal nerve, which connects the network of nerves in the gut to the brain; the second is through circulating immune cells that are primed, or educated, in the gut and then travel to the brain; and the third may be metabolites, molecules that are produced by microbes in the gut that enter the blood and circulate to regions of the brain where they affect behavior. We've shown, for example, that a metabolite produced by gut bacteria is sufficient to cause behavioral abnormalities associated with autism and with anxiety when it is injected into otherwise healthy mice. This suggests that microbial molecules may connect the gut to the brain via the circulatory system. 

Note to NIH - THIS is where the money needs to go.  

Teresa Conrick is Managing Editor for Age of Autism.



I have been reading your links Teresa. Thanks for them by the way.

Three years ago the TV news doctors that make me mad on vaccines most days - did say that what you eat could effect the hypothalamus and could heal it. That the hypothalamus effects the gut and now they know that the gut can effect the hypothalamus.

How wonderful to know.

Gilles St-Pierre

Biology is going through a real paradigm shift. Classical genetics and most of analytic philosophy are conceptual Titanic. Art, real science and real philosophy demonstrate that "consciousness is coextensive to life".
The gut microbiome does influence the mood, the behaviour and even the brain development.
Natural delivery and breastfeeding are very important. During the first year of life, some bacteria will form a “niche” leading to the expression of enzymes which themselves will create a favourable environment for other microbes. The microbiome must be constructed.
Fecal transplantations have proven their efficacy and represent a shortcut in treating digestive system dysfunctions.
We must adopt a larger look on immunity than the old Koch and Pasteur point of view. Biological reality is more a matter of internal ecology and balanced microbe population. We should replace the notion of pathogen by the concept of dysbiosis (unbalanced microbiome, not necessarily pathogen).

 Teresa Conrick

Hi All.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I felt the need to stress that the Microbiome research IS on the BRAIN. The two go hand in hand. An assault on the brain can affect the gut http://www.ageofautism.com/2016/07/troke-alters-gut-microbiome-impacting-recovery-what-about-vaccine-injury-and-autism.html and an assault on the gut can effect the BRAIN http://www.ageofautism.com/2014/07/dr-andy-wakefield-you-had-me-at-microbiome.html.

Additional reading:









Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Jenny Allan, Gi problems are a priority in treating people with neurological disorders. Still GI problems are the result of autonomic dysfunction in the brain. The brain must be the primary focus of research on autism.

The gut was the central nervous system of primordial species like jelly fish, for taking in nutrients and eliminating waste. Control of the intestinal system moved to the brain during evolution of vertebrates, along with centers that control heart-beat and breathing. These control centers are metabolically the most active centers in the brain, thus especially vulnerable to factors that disrupt metabolism.

The brain is a complex of special circuits for hearing, vision, sensation, as well as autonomic functions. Micro-biome feedback to the brain looks to me like a theory based on a more simplistic view of the brain as a myriad of neurons participating in random interactions. Like Cherry I dread the idea of research money going into micro-biome research with the brain as only a secondary factor.

Also, C-section birth is most dangerous because the umbilical cord is clamped immediately after removal of the baby, to preserve the "sterile field" for surgical repair. The lungs need transfer of blood from the placenta. Otherwise blood will be drained from the brain and gut to jump-start lung function. This is far more serious than lack of exposure to maternal microbes.

Jenny Allan

@ Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon "The brain and its control centers must be insisted on as the focus of research in autism."

Strongly disagree. My Grandson's behaviour and concentration improved dramatically when his doctors prescribed a gluten & casein free diet. We also eliminated monosodium glutamate and other food additives. He was a child at the time. He's an adult now and for a long time has been permitted to eat whatever he wants, but his body tells him! He still avoids dairy products, but surprisingly, seems to have few problems with Italian pastas, which he loves. These are made with a different variety of wheat. My Grandson still won't take probiotics unfortunately. Yogurts etc are made with milk and contain casein. He just can't swallow those big capsules.

Dr Wakefield talks about 'the gut brain bone' and he is right. Scientists now acknowledge the Colon is far more than a 'waste disposal unit', and a healthy gut is essential both for physical and emotional wellbeing. My Grandson suffers terribly when he is tempted to eat something he shouldn't. Those of us attempting to promote dietary interventions for autistic bowel conditions are well accustomed to vilification from those vested interests which collectively would like to keep our children and young adults sick and on expensive medications.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Cherry, Thank you. At the IACC conference call last week on Question 3: What caused this to happen? The microbiome was discussed as a potential area of research, but not the brain.

I will continue to try to point out that GI problems are common in neurological disorders like alcoholism and drug addictions. The GI problems are secondary to injury of autonomic centers in the brainstem that control intestinal peristalsis. Autonomic centers that control breathing and heart-rate are also affected in addictions, which is why sudden unexpected death occurs in addicts.

Autism, addictions, Alzheimer's all likely involve autonomic disturbances. The brain and its control centers must be insisted on as the focus of research in autism.

Jeannette Bishop

(text error) ...from my admittedly limited vantage point.

Jeannette Bishop

How hard would it be for many researchers currently employed in hunting for the human genes accused of causing disease to cross over to instead looking at the genetic makeup (I'm assuming that could mean identifying DNA of smaller organisms) of the microbiome and their possible relationships with various health characteristics? It doesn't seem like it would be a career devastating evolution, probably more like career boosting if making significant discoveries is the goal my admittedly limited vantage point.


Cherry, the behemoth never moves as quickly as we wish. In the meantime, as they slowly inch toward understanding, everyone else needs to quickly be shown the connections/similar pathways by which humans (and any animal, really) are harmed by antibiotics, heavy metal and chemical use in agriculture and yard treatment, and vaccines. Heavy metals and chemicals get into human tissue through food, air, and water. They also get into the human body through vaccination, both injected and oral. Once in the tissue, they are probably producing an ongoing antibiotic effect. We all understand that there are antibiotics that go systemic. There are also antibiotics that appear to only treat the gastrointestinal system without being absorbed and going systemic (though I think that could use more research).
Injected vaccines automatically go systemic. The body automatically fights to clear things that have gone systemic, it's a self protection response - protect the blood at all costs because what's in the blood gets access to the organs and tissues very quickly.

EXCEPT, we know that heavy metals that the body tries to clear after going through the liver and being then dumped through the bile into the small intestines, then can damage the gut microbiome and gut lining. Then, a portion of the heavy metal plus free radical damage waste probably gets into the blood AGAIN through the damaged leaky gut, going through the body again. Then when it circulated to the gut again, it's coming to a seriously damaged gut with less probiotic protections - and on and on and on it goes. The very first round of antibiotics as a prescription to a baby would make the problem worse, and the second and the third, etc. And when they start eating baby food that's not organic, it probably gets worse. We know what glyphosate can do.

(I'd like to know if there is a correlation between average age at time of autism diagnosis, and when the child received their first round of antibiotics - before or after their injection series begin. I bet those diagnosed at a younger age had antibiotics early on. That's probably why the HEP B shot carries so much risk - it's like a systemic antibiotic on day one of life starting the cycle very early)

What we know NOW that we didn't know back in the day, is that we can support or counter that continual inflammatory antibiotic-like damage from vaccines with probiotics in the the gut, while increasing the foods that bind to the problem substances making it more likely they are carried out of the body, instead of being recycled. Regular eating SHOULD be a seemless ongoing detox process. Eating organically grown food decreases inadvertant "antibiotic-like" exposures through food that would continue to exacerbate the problem. Higher number of c-sections decreasing neonatal probiotic levels leaves out a protective mechanism that could temporarily stave off damage from newborn vaccinations AND reduce the need for antibiotics early in life - breaking part of the "creation of autism" cycle. C-section numbers and probiotics are not the end all and be all solution, but they are important in the pattern of health vs chronic illness.

It will be critically important to make sure middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college kids find out about this to try and break the burgeoning pattern of teen chronic illness, anxiety, depression, and suicide. It's not just parents of babies that are vaccinating and getting anti-biotic prescriptions right and left. Old people at the mercy of institutionalized health care are also at risk for lack of probiotics. Maybe it's being called alzheimers.

Morag MacDonald Lyons

Regulatory oversight of study standards woefully inadequate?
Study [1] Is measles vaccination a risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease, The Lancet 1995
Abstract summary suggests that measlesnvirus may play a part in the development of IBD .
No mention of any association of people being "on the spectrum "at all?
Study [2] Gastroenterology and Hepatology
The independent peer reviewed journal 2012
Vaccination issues in patients with IBD recieving treatment
MMR is generally contraindicated consider on a case-by-case basis ?
If vaccinations are promoted as safe and effective for everone ?
Would these 2012 evaluations pass a basic health and safety risk assessment?
Basic fire prevention says water extinguishes fire BUT put water near a chip pan fire and it will cause death and carnage!
Are susceptible populations experiencing a cytokine storm reaction from some immunisations?


Respectfully to Cherry Misra, while I understand what you're saying about the denial and misdirection and that documentary might have some agenda being served with it. However, you're mistaken about the cesarean rate in the 70s. The c-section rate in 1972 was 7.3% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1422801/pdf/pubhealthrep00126-0032.pdf). In other words, 92.7% of births still occurred vaginally and all those babies still got properly inoculated with mom's gut flora. Which, by the way, was probably far more healthy than it is now, thanks to the subsequent loss of soil nutrients, introduction of GMOs, poor nutrition, junk food influx, on and on. I'm not saying any of that causes autism-- I firmly believe vaccines are the answer there. But I think the lack of proper gut flora may indeed make people more vulnerable to vaccine damage.

So with the cesarean rate having risen to the rate of 1 in 3 births now (32.2% in 2014 - (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/delivery.htm), I think we're definitely creating damage that has almost got to impact our kids' health in a million different ways. Some known and a whole lot more unknown as yet. There's a huge number of cesarean babies now, compared to so few back then. It would be interesting to see how the numbers track-- auto-immune diseases, chronic illness, etc. as compared to the cesarean rate. I just don't buy the direct link to autism, as you said.


Thanks for the information. Very interesting that there are three ways that the microbes are communicating with the brain. So much to know, learn - There is a bunch of scientists and especially politicians that better get with it.

Cherry Misra

Im sure that studying the microbiome is a move in the right direction. It would have some links to autism or it would have been affected by the same toxic exposure that causes autism. However, I would like to say that last summer, I was shown a documentary that was clearly a propaganda piece put out by some public health authority. (Sorry, I dont have the details) The documentary claimed that c- sections and lack of skin to skin contact resulting in effects on the microbiome might be the cause of a number of disorders. (Autism was not one of the first four that they named) I found this a rather unusual claim because even 45 years back there were plenty of women having C sections and yet the disorders that they referred to were not increaseing in those years. No convincing chemical or physiological pathway was ever suggested to explain how the disorders were linked to the microbiome. Then cleverly, just at the very end of the documentary, the narrator said something like "Oh yes!! and there are other disorders too!". At this point a blackboard was shown with a guy in white coat writing words on it- and one word that could be seen for about a second was autism. So I said to myself, "OK, so now that we have exhausted the dead end of genetics , we will go down the rabbit hole of 15 years of microbiome research to show that autism was caused by C- sections, lack of skin to skin contact and whatever more they can add to the soup. And how many more billion s of dollars will go into this new version of DELAY, DENY DISTRACT. Is this their answer to VaxXed ??


re: "in other words not only what to target but where those targets are in the body. If the therapeutic targets are in the brain then it becomes particularly challenging because of the blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels that protects the brain from harmful substances."

In a different AofA post sometime over the past couple weeks, someone else had mentioned nasal delivery of something- maybe an insulin product for diabetes? I'm beginning to think the blood brain barrier being protective or a challenge as a barrier is as true as that old myth about the placenta "protecting" the fetus from chemicals in the environment. In looking into information today for a different issue, I came across this info. And can't oxytocin be delivered nasally?

Here we see nasal delivery sucessful again, with a different substance in treatment of stroke: a known anti-inflammatory antioxidant: curcumin.



Really makes a person think about aromatherapies, as well as what application routes may be doable for specific probiotics. I wonder if there is a curcumin essential oil?

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