PROVO, Utah – Brigham Young University researchers want to look at lots of dirty diapers so they can develop a test that may detect autism earlier than ever before.
Dr. Rebecca Lundwall says they will be looking for certain gut microbes in the mess babies leave behind.
“It produces neurotransmitters, believe it or not, that act in your brain and can influence your ability to handle different stressful, emotional situations,” Lundwall says.
But how did researchers connect autism to gut bacteria?
Teenagers and adults with autism have different gut microbes than those who do not. It is unclear why, but the team at BYU wants to know if that difference can be detected in babies.
If it can, children could get into treatment sooner.
“If we can get them while they’re toddlers, even one-year-olds, and we can train them to pay attention to eyes and faces and tone of voice…that just makes the rest of their lives easier,” Lundwall says.
The autism test researchers hope to eventually develop would be used at well-baby visits.
Lundwall thinks it could also be helpful for girls and children in rural areas, who are typically diagnosed later.
“Babies learn very, very early to give their emotions from their eyes and their faces and their body movements,” Lundwall says. “Kids with autism often learn that later, and it’s more difficult for them.”
In the meantime, researchers are looking for babies to participate in the study. They are accepting dirty diapers whether or not your family has a history of autism.
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