The study, conducted on mice, revealed that the composition of bacterial populations in the mother’s digestive tract can influence whether maternal infection leads to repetitive behaviour and impaired sociability - autistic-like behaviours in offspring.
A second study in the same jounal, revealed that not all mothers who experience severe infection end up having child with autism, and similarly not all the mice in the maternal inflammation model develop behavioural abnormalities.
“This suggests that inflammation during pregnancy is just one of the factors. It needs to work with additional factors to lead all the way to that outcome,” said Gloria Choi, the assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the journal Nature.
Moreover, the researchers found that only the offspring of mice with one specific type of harmless bacteria, known as segmented filamentous bacteria, had behavioural abnormalities. When they killed those bacteria with antibiotics, the mice produced normal offspring.
If validated in human studies, the findings could offer a possible way to reduce the risk of autism, which would involve blocking the function of certain strains of bacteria found in the maternal gut. - IANS