Researchers from Chinese University say they have developed a stool test that can detect or predict autism in young children.
The researchers looked at the stool samples of 128 children aged 3 to 6, of which half had autism.
They found that in the samples of children with autism, there were higher levels of five types of bacteria compared to those who didn't have the condition, and that children with autism have fewer gut bacteria linked to neurotransmitter activity.
The researchers then looked at the five types of bacteria and came up with a stool test that can detect autism with a sensitivity of at least 80 percent.
Professor Siew Ng, an associate director of the centre for gut microbiota research at the university's school of medicine, said emerging evidence shows gut bacteria can produce certain toxins that circulate through the blood to the brain, known as the gut-brain axis, and that this could lead to symptoms seen in children with autism.
Ng said a clinical diagnosis is currently used for autism, and this can sometimes lead to delays.
“We believe that if there is a non-invasive test like a stool test, just based on our innovation of five combinations of bacteria that could be easily done at home, it could complement current diagnostic pathways whereby the children with suspected cases can have the stool test be done, and if there are any suspicion or high-risk features then a physician or a psychiatrist will be able to see the children a bit quicker and come up with a diagnosis,” she said.