Tag Archives: #gastrointestinal

New Weapon in the Fight Against Gastrointestinal Disease in Informal Settlements (Medicine)

Monash University researchers have validated a way to successfully detect a diverse range of bacteria (pathogens) that cause diarrhoeal disease in informal settlements.

Better protection from disease for people living in communities facing water, sanitation and hygiene challenges is essential, as microbes that cause gastrointestinal disease (enteropathogens) are responsible for 1.4 million deaths per year, predominantly in children under five, and cause impaired nutrition and development.

However, it is highly challenging to effectively monitor their spread due to the sheer number of pathogens and sources involved. Numerous enteropathogens cause diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal diseases, spanning viruses, bacteria, amoeba, and worms, each with distinct characteristics. Moreover, they are spread through complex pathways via human, animal, environmental, and food sources. Traditionally, microbiologists only monitor select pathogens and each source is usually tested separately.

The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, evaluated for the first time the laboratory method called the TaqMan Array Card (TAC) against the gold standard method, standard quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). They found that the TAC is faster and cheaper than qPCR, while delivering comparably precise results and simultaneously detecting over 30 different enteropathogens.

Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute microbiologist Dr Rachael Lappan co-led the comparative study using wastewater samples from Melbourne and human stool, animal scat, soil, and water samples from informal settlements in Suva, Fiji. She says that validating the TAC method is a big step forward in combating the complex and neglected problem of childhood diarrhoea.

‘Enteropathogens can be picked up through so many different ways in informal settlements, and it can be a real challenge to monitor them because there’s such a variety of enteropathogens that contribute to disease,’ Dr Lappan explains. ‘TAC offers a relatively simple and affordable way to do this, and it can be done on any kind of sample.’

‘It’s incredibly important because it will help us better understand and monitor the pathways through which people become sick, and help target those pathways with effective water management interventions that could ultimately lead to better health, like the one we are trialling in the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program,’ Dr Lappan said.

Co-senior author of the paper, Associate Professor Chris Greening from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, adds ‘by comparing these methods, we wanted to know whether the ability to efficiently detect a broad range of enteropathogens would come with a substantial disadvantage in sensitivity. However, we showed that TAC performs comparably to qPCR and is ideally suited for broad pathogen screening that is impractical to carry out via standard qPCR.’

The study was conducted as part of the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) program, an interdisciplinary research program and trial that aims to improve the management of water and sanitation in urban informal settlements with nature-based infrastructure. RISE, and other transformational water, sanitation and hygiene programs, need techniques that allow comprehensive but efficient monitoring of enteropathogens to understand environmental contamination and disease burden before and after interventions.

Read the full paper in The Lancet Planetary Health titled: Monitoring of diverse enteric pathogens across environmental and host reservoirs with TaqMan array cards and standard quantitative PCR: a methodological comparison study.


Reference: Rachael Lappan, Rebekah Henry et al., “Monitoring of diverse enteric pathogens across environmental and host reservoirs with TaqMan array cards and standard qPCR: a methodological comparison study”, the Lancet, 5(5), pp. 297-308, 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00051-6


Provided by Monash University

Autism Study Suggests Connection Between Repetitive Behaviors, Gut Problems (Psychology)

In children with autism, repetitive behaviors and gastrointestinal problems may be connected, new research has found.

The study found that increased severity of other autism symptoms was also associated with more severe constipation, stomach pain and other gut difficulties.

The research, which appears in the journal Autism, found no association between social and communication difficulties and gastrointestinal symptoms.

The study doesn’t explain the biological mechanism for the relationship between repetitive behaviors, such as rocking back and forth and hand flapping, and gut problems. But it helps establish that gastrointestinal symptoms may exacerbate repetitive behaviors, or vice versa, a finding that could one day help lead to helpful interventions, said Payal Chakraborty, a graduate student in The Ohio State University College of Public Health who led the study.

Children with autism spectrum disorder are more likely than their typically developing peers to experience a range of gastrointestinal abnormalities, including chronic diarrhea, constipation, food sensitivities and abdominal pain. These symptoms have been associated with higher levels of irritability and aggressive behavior, but less is known about their relationship with other autism spectrum disorder symptoms.

“In the general population, there’s a fair amount of evidence about the connection between mood and mental disorders and gastrointestinal difficulties. In autism, we wonder if the gut problems children experience are a core part of the disease itself or whether they’re brought on by other symptoms that children with autism experience,” Chakraborty said.

Chakraborty began the study as a student at Duke University, where she worked at the Center for Autism and Brain Development and became interested in the potential connection between the gut and other characteristics of the developmental disability.

Using data from a study designed to test the viability of cord blood transplants as an autism treatment, Chakraborty looked at detailed clinical measures and reports provided by the families of 176 children who were two to seven years old to see if she could find any insights into the drivers of gastrointestinal problems. Almost all of the children, 93%, had at least one gastrointestinal symptom.

“GI problems are a significant issue for many people with autism and there’s evidence that these symptoms might exacerbate certain autism behaviors, which can lead to greater developmental challenges,” she said.

The specifics of the relationship are unclear, but it’s possible that repetitive behaviors in children with autism could be a coping mechanism that helps them manage their gastrointestinal discomfort, Chakraborty said, adding that the symptoms of autism often emerge at a time when children aren’t in a position to adequately communicate their physical suffering with words.

“Gastrointestinal problems are a major concern for many children with autism and we still have a lot to learn about the complicated gut/brain axis,” she said.

References: Payal Chakraborty et al. Gastrointestinal problems are associated with increased repetitive behaviors but not social communication difficulties in young children with autism spectrum disorders, Autism (2020). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1362361320959503 DOI: 10.1177/1362361320959503

Provided by Ohio State University