A new scientific study published by RMIT University in Australia has claimed that a number of neurological diseases, including autism, may be therapied by changing the balance of bacteria in the gut. The news comes as autism has seen a massive spike over the past 14 years, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claiming that cases have jumped by around 15 percent and affect one in every 59 children.
The study expressed the hope that the disability, in addition to a number of other neurological disorders, could be potentially cured by focusing on intestinal mucus, a previously overlooked aspect of the microbiome, according to Science Daily.
"Mucus is a critical protective layer that helps balance good and bad bacteria in your gut but you need just the right amount," explained senior author and Associate Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin.
Though previous research had shown a connection between mucus and gut bacteria, the RMIT team was the first to investigate how changing intestinal mucus could, in turn, affect the brain.
The team reviewed 113 neurological, gut, and microbiology studies to look for a link, and found a major connection.
"People with autism, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis have different types of bacteria in their gut mucus compared with healthy people, and different amounts of good and bad bacteria," Hill-Yardin continued.
The connection was so strong that Hill-Yardin even referred to the intestinal tract as the "second brain."That said, more research will be needed as gut mucus is different depending on where it is located. The small intestine contains mucus that is extremely porous -- allowing nutrients from food to be absorbed by the body. In contrast, the large intestine's mucus is thick so that it impenetrable to harmful bacteria.
However, scientists are hoping that the new findings can help pave the way for potential cures.
"If we can understand the role that gut mucus plays in brain disease, we can try to develop treatments that harness this precise part of the gut-brain axis," Hill-Yardin continued.
"Our work shows that microbial engineering, and tweaking the gut mucus to boost good bacteria, have potential as therapeutic options for neurological disorders," she concluded.
The findings come at a particularly good time as health experts are warning about the possible neurological effects of the novel coronavirus. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, a number of cases -- especially in young patients with mild symptoms -- have reported troubling neurological side effects of COVID-19, including seizures, encephalitis, and even paralysis.