A comparison between children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and healthy controls in biomedical factors, trace elements, and microbiota biomarkers: a meta-analysis

Ping Lin, Qianwen Zhang, Junyu Sun, Qingtian Li, Dan Li, Mengyuan Zhu, Xiaomei Fu, Ling Zhao, Mengxia Wang, Xiaoyan Lou, Qing Chen, Kangyi Liang, Yuxin Zhu, Caiwei Qu, Zhenhua Li, Peijun Ma, Renyu Wang, Huafen Liu, Ke Dong, Xiaokui GuoXunjia Cheng, Yang Sun, Jing Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a multifaceted developmental condition that commonly appears during early childhood. The etiology of ASD remains multifactorial and not yet fully understood. The identification of biomarkers may provide insights into the underlying mechanisms and pathophysiology of the disorder. The present study aimed to explore the causes of ASD by investigating the key biomedical markers, trace elements, and microbiota factors between children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and control subjects.

METHODS: Medline, PubMed, ProQuest, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and EMBSCO databases have been searched for publications from 2012 to 2023 with no language restrictions using the population, intervention, control, and outcome (PICO) approach. Keywords including "autism spectrum disorder," "oxytocin," "GABA," "Serotonin," "CRP," "IL-6," "Fe," "Zn," "Cu," and "gut microbiota" were used for the search. The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) critical appraisal checklist was used to assess the article quality, and a random model was used to assess the mean difference and standardized difference between ASD and the control group in all biomedical markers, trace elements, and microbiota factors.

RESULTS: From 76,217 records, 43 studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were included in this meta-analysis. The pooled analyses showed that children with ASD had significantly lower levels of oxytocin (mean differences, MD = -45.691, 95% confidence interval, CI: -61.667, -29.717), iron (MD = -3.203, 95% CI: -4.891, -1.514), and zinc (MD = -6.707, 95% CI: -12.691, -0.722), lower relative abundance of Bifidobacterium (MD = -1.321, 95% CI: -2.403, -0.238) and Parabacteroides (MD = -0.081, 95% CI: -0.148, -0.013), higher levels of c-reactive protein, CRP (MD = 0.401, 95% CI: 0.036, 0.772), and GABA (MD = 0.115, 95% CI: 0.045, 0.186), and higher relative abundance of Bacteroides (MD = 1.386, 95% CI: 0.717, 2.055) and Clostridium (MD = 0.281, 95% CI: 0.035, 0.526) when compared with controls. The results of the overall analyses were stable after performing the sensitivity analyses. Additionally, no substantial publication bias was observed among the studies.

INTERPRETATION: Children with ASD have significantly higher levels of CRP and GABA, lower levels of oxytocin, iron, and zinc, lower relative abundance of Bifidobacterium and Parabacteroides, and higher relative abundance of Faecalibacterium, Bacteroides, and Clostridium when compared with controls. These results suggest that these indicators may be a potential biomarker panel for the diagnosis or determining therapeutic targets of ASD. Furthermore, large, sample-based, and randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these results.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1318637
Pages (from-to)1318637
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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