quadrant biosciences

Unique Oral Microbiome Signature Detected in Children With Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
quadrant biosciencesSteven D. Hicks, MD PhD
Penn State College of Medicine
Department of Pediatrics
Division of Academic General Pediatrics
Hershey, PA, 17033‐0850

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: ​Previous studies have shown that disrupting the community of bacteria in the gut can lead to autism-like behavior in animals. In humans interventions aimed at improving the intestinal microbiome have also led to changes in autism behavior. Here, we examined whether autism-related changes in microbial activity extended to the mouth and throat. We were interested in this site because it provides the initial interface between host immunity and microbe exposure.

By examining nearly 350 children with autism, typical development, or developmental delay (without autism) we identified 12 groups of oral bacteria with unique activity patterns in children with autism. Interestingly, microbial activity (measured by RNA sequencing) also differed between children with autism and gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances and peers with autism but no GI disturbance. Levels of several microbes also displayed correlations with measures of autism behaviors. We utilized microbial activity patterns to create diagnostic panels that displayed accuracy for distinguishing children with autism from peers with typical development (79.5% accuracy) or developmental delay (76.5% accuracy). 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: ​This report establishes that microbial communities are disrupted in the upper GI tract (i.e. mouth) of children with autism, and provides evidence that these alterations may be related to GI co-morbidities or social/repetitive behaviors observed in children with autism. The study establishes a panel of microbial features that provide utility for objectively differentiating children with autism from peers without autism.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: For maximal clinical utility and diagnostic accuracy this technology will likely require combination with other biomarker approaches. Future studies examining the human poly-omic response to microbial colonization may improve diagnostic accuracy and provide insights into the host immune response in autism spectrum disorder. In addition, longitudinal analyses of microbial factors alongside evidence-based therapies may provide valuable knowledge.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Drs. Hicks and Middleton are co-inventors of intellectual property involving salivary nucleic acid biomarkers for disorders of the central nervous system. This technology is licensed to Quadrant Biosciences Inc., who funded the current investigation through a National Institute of Health Phase I STTR grant. Dr. Hicks serves as a paid consultant for Quadrant Biosciences.

Quadrant Biosciences, Inc. is developing clinical assessment and molecular diagnostic tools to help physicians assess brain health and support more rapid accurate diagnoses of brain-based disorders. Quadrant is collaborating with leading research institutions and hospitals to develop novel saliva-based tests that measure epigenetic biomarkers related to gene expression patterns underlying these disorders. Current products include the FDA-compliant ClearEdge® toolkit for functional assessment of neurological disorders, and the Clarifi™epigenetic biomarker panel in development to aid clinicians in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. ​ 


Oral microbiome activity in children with autism spectrum disorder

Steven D. Hicks, Richard Uhlig, Parisa Afshari, Jeremy Williams, Maria Chroneos, Cheryl Tierney‐Aves, Kayla Wagner, Frank A. Middleton First published: 14 August 2018 

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD