Deficits in beneficial gut bacteria might also affect social brain function. In 2017, Cryan reported that when mice with an autism-like condition had lower levels of Bifidobacterium and Blautia gut bacteria, their guts made less tryptophan and bile acid — compounds needed to produce serotonin3. And children with autism have been consistently found to have lower levels of Veillonellaceae, Coprococcus and Prevotella gut bacteria than those without the condition4. Researchers have also observed that some people with ASD could have an abnormally porous blood–brain barrier, which allows some toxic bacterial by-products to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain5.

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