Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction and Microbiota–Gut–Brain Axis: Possible Implications in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with multifactorial etiology, characterized by impairment in two main functional areas: (1) communication and social interactions, and (2) skills, interests and activities. ASD patients often suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms associated with dysbiotic states and a “leaky gut.” A key role in the pathogenesis of ASD has been attributed to the gut microbiota, as it influences central nervous system development and neuropsychological and gastrointestinal homeostasis through the microbiota–gut–brain axis. A state of dysbiosis with a reduction in the Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio and Bacteroidetes level and other imbalances is common in ASD. In recent decades, many authors have tried to study and identify the microbial signature of ASD through in vivo and ex vivo studies. In this regard, the advent of metabolomics has also been of great help. Based on these data, several therapeutic strategies, primarily the use of probiotics, are investigated to improve the symptoms of ASD through the modulation of the microbiota. However, although the results are promising, the heterogeneity of the studies precludes concrete evidence. The aim of this review is to explore the role of intestinal barrier dysfunction, the gut–brain axis and microbiota alterations in ASD and the possible role of probiotic supplementation in these patients.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; intestinal barrier dysfunction; leaky gut; microbiota–gut–brain axis; probiotics; children
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