Google has announced a major study that looks at how bacteria in popular video games are harming the brains of children with autism.
Researchers at the University of Sydney say the findings suggest bacteria found naturally in games such as Pokémon Go are causing a range of symptoms in children with the condition.
The study, published online in the journal PLOS One, found that children with ASDs were three times more likely to experience symptoms that were similar to those experienced by children with other forms of autism.
It’s important to note that we do not know if this is a causal link.
The researchers say it’s likely that it’s the combination of environmental factors, such as playing in a group, and playing games together that lead to this.
However, the researchers stress that this study cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship between playing games and autism.
“The question is: ‘Are these people playing with these bacteria?
Are they having these symptoms?'” lead researcher Dr Richard Alder said.
“It’s not clear if they’re playing with bacteria that are beneficial, or are they playing with a potentially harmful strain.”
“But it’s very, very unlikely that there’s a causal relationship between bacteria in a game and autism.”
Dr Alder has been studying the health effects of bacteria found within video games for the past two years.
In the first study, he looked at a number of bacteria that had been found naturally within Pokémon Go.
His team analysed DNA samples from 11 children aged between two and 14 with autism spectrum disorder.
They found four strains of bacteria were common in these children.
While the strains varied in their levels of activity, they tended to have the same pattern of genetic mutations that caused autism.
Alder said the results suggested that these bacteria were not harmless.
He said they were a cause and effect relationship that was important to understand, but not to dismiss.
When he was asked about this by The Australian, he said he did not know the exact strains.
But he stressed that they were unlikely to be harmful.
Dr Paul Clements from the University in Queensland told the ABC the findings would be of particular interest to scientists in the autism community.
We need to understand how these different strains may be causing the different symptoms, he told the Nine Network.
Clements is one of several scientists who has been working to understand the possible role of these bacteria in autism.
“This is not a one-off,” he said.
“The data we’re gathering is going to be very helpful to scientists trying to understand exactly what the role of the different bacteria in this disease is.”
And it’s also going to help us to understand what causes autism.
“Dr Clements said he hoped that understanding more about how the different strains of bacterial might be affecting autism could lead to new therapies.
Earlier this month, the Australian reported that researchers in Queensland had found that a number in the family of bacteria known as bifidobacteria, found naturally on certain bacteria in our gut, may help cause autism.