A simple urine test could help in the detection of autism because of a different chemical profile that children with this condition have, a new study has found.
Jeremy Nicholson, professor and study co-author at London's Imperial College (IC), said: "Autism is a condition that affects a person's social skills, so at first it might seem strange that there's a relationship between autism and what's happening in someone's gut."
"Autism affects many different parts of a person's system and our study shows that you can see how it disrupts their system by looking at their metabolism and their gut bacteria," added Nicholson.
People with autism have a range of different symptoms, but they commonly experience problems with communication and social skills, such as understanding other people's emotions and making conversation and eye contact.
They are also known to have a different makeup of bacteria in their guts from non-autistic people.
The distinctive urinary metabolic fingerprint for autism identified in the study could form the basis of a non-invasive test that might help diagnose autism earlier.
At present, children are assessed for autism through a lengthy process involving a range of tests that explore the child's social interaction, communication and imaginative skills, said an IC release.
Early intervention can greatly improve the progress of children with autism but it is currently difficult to establish a firm diagnosis when children are under 18 months of age, although it is likely that changes may occur much earlier than this.
Researchers reached their conclusions by using H NMR Spectroscopy to analyse the urine of three groups of children aged between 3 and 9: 39 children who had previously been diagnosed with autism, 28 non-autistic siblings of children with autism, and 34 children who did not have autism who did not have an autistic sibling.