Current diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is based on assessment of behavioral symptoms, although there is strong evidence that ASD affects multiple organ systems including the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This study used Fisher discriminant analysis (FDA) to evaluate plasma metabolites from 18 children with ASD and chronic GI problems (ASD+GI cohort) and 20 typically developing (TD) children without GI problems (TD−GI cohort). Using three plasma metabolites that may represent three general groups of metabolic abnormalities, it was possible to distinguish the ASD+GI cohort from the TD−GI cohort with 94% sensitivity and 100% specificity after leave-one-out cross-validation. After the ASD+GI participants underwent Microbiota Transfer Therapy with significant improvement in GI and ASD-related symptoms, their metabolic profiles shifted significantly to become more similar to the TD−GI group, indicating potential utility of this combination of plasma metabolites as a biomarker for treatment efficacy. Two of the metabolites, sarcosine and inosine 5'-monophosphate, improved greatly after treatment. The third metabolite, tyramine O-sulfate, showed no change in median value, suggesting it and correlated metabolites to be a possible target for future therapies. Since it is unclear whether the observed differences are due to metabolic abnormalities associated with ASD or with GI symptoms (or contributions from both), future studies aiming to classify ASD should feature TD participants with GI symptoms and have larger sample sizes to improve confidence in the results.
Processes 7, No. 11: 806 (2019)