Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Dr. Stacey Wood

Reader 2

Dr. John Milton

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a heterogeneous neurological condition characterized by repetitive and restrictive behaviors and social communication deficits. ASD diagnoses are at a record high, at approximately 1 in 59 children according to the US Center for Disease Control. Currently, there are no available interventions that effectively treat the core symptoms of ASD. All pharmaceutical options address comorbid side effects of ASD but not core deficits and are particularly associated with negative side effects. Additionally, there are economic and geographic barriers that can prevent families of individuals with ASD from seeking or receiving effective interventions. Many of the available interventions are extremely costly, time-consuming, and age dependent. These factors, as well as others, have led to an increase in families independently utilizing complementary and alternative interventions. Due to the large amount of misinformation available on the Internet, families have become more susceptible to trying alternative forms of interventions that have not been scientifically proven as effective, and in some cases, are significantly detrimental. Thus, the need for accessible and inexpensive evidence-based nonpharmaceutical interventions is critical and must be addressed. Fortunately, recent groundbreaking research has discovered two strains of probiotics, Bacteroides fragilis and Lactobacillus reuteri, that have been shown to ameliorate behavioral and social deficits respectively, in validated ASD mouse models in a non-age-dependent manner. Probiotic intervention with a combination of these specific strains would effectively target both repetitive behaviors and social deficits, core ASD symptoms, and provide families with an accessible and inexpensive form of intervention. The mechanisms underlying the efficacy of these probiotics are thought to be associated with the gastrointestinal (GI) system and the oxytocin pathway. This study seeks to examine the necessity of accessible nonpharmaceutical interventions and to provide an effective intervention that is neither expensive or age dependent. This study also aims to provide greater insight into the pathways and systems in which these probiotics operate.