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Gastroenterology Research and Practice
Volume 2011, Article ID 161358, 8 pages
Review Article

The Potential Role of Probiotics in the Management of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders

1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
2R&D Department, Winclove Bio Industries, Hulstweg 11, 1032 LB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3Integrative Health Consulting, Milber, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 4SG, UK

Received 31 March 2011; Accepted 20 August 2011

Academic Editor: P. Enck

Copyright © 2011 J. William Critchfield et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction has been reported in a substantial number of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Activation of the mucosal immune response and the presence of abnormal gut microbiota are repeatedly observed in these children. In children with ASD, the presence of GI dysfunction is often associated with increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behaviour, and sleep disturbances. Moreover, modulating gut bacteria with short-term antibiotic treatment can lead to temporary improvement in behavioral symptoms in some individuals with ASD. Probiotics can influence microbiota composition and intestinal barrier function and alter mucosal immune responses. The administration of probiotic bacteria to address changes in the microbiota might, therefore, be a useful novel therapeutic tool with which to restore normal gut microbiota, reduce inflammation, restore epithelial barrier function, and potentially ameliorate behavioural symptoms associated with some children with ASD. In this review of the literature, support emerges for the clinical testing of probiotics in ASD, especially in the context of addressing GI symptoms.