A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2023 | Number 2, Volume 37

Meta-analysis: benefits of probiotics unclear, multiple strains may be effective

While there is a significant association between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and gastrointestinal problems, a new metaanalysis suggests that more study is needed to determine the effects of probiotic use on ASD symptoms. 

The meta-analysis, by Xiao He and colleagues, looked at the findings of seven studies exploring the effects of probiotic use on ASD symptoms. The researchers report, “[P]ositive significant effects of probiotics were not observed in children with ASD in our meta-analysis. The studies used provided limited evidence for the efficacy of probiotics on children with ASD due to their small sample sizes, shorter intervention duration, different probiotics used, different scales used, and poor research quality.” 

However, they say, “Significantly, multiple-strain probiotic blend intervention exhibited a positive therapeutic effect on children with ASD and was more effective than single-strain probiotics in subgroup analyses. Moreover, subgroup analyses suggested that studies with longer intervention durations and RCT [randomized controlled trial] designs might be more likely to reveal the effects of probiotic treatment in improving ASD-related behavioral symptoms in children.” 

The researchers conclude that future studies should consider the different species of probiotics used, the ages of study participants, the GI symptoms of participants, and the duration of intervention in order to identify any effects of probiotic use.


“Effects of probiotics on autism spectrum disorder in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials,” Xiao He, Wenxi Liu,,Fengrao Tang, Xin Chen, and Guirong Song, Nutrients, March 15, 2023 (free online). Address: Guirong Song, Department of Health Statistics, School of Public Health, Dalian Medical University, No. 9 South Road, Lvshun District, Dalian 116044, China, [email protected].