Date of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Lisa-Anne Foster


The normal bacterial flora of an organism includes the non-disease causing bacteria that inhabit the human body under normal conditions. These bacteria are important for numerous reasons; for example, they excrete vitamins and prevent colonization by pathogens. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by social challenges, repetitive behaviors, and communication deficits. Comorbid conditions including gastrointestinal (GI) issues, depression, and anxiety are common. One popular way to attempt to alleviate the behavioral symptoms of ASDs is maintaining a ketogenic diet, which is seventy-five percent fat. Such a diet induces ketosis, a metabolic state when ketone bodies, not glucose, are used as the primary fuel. This study analyzes how the ketogenic diet affects the GI flora in a mouse model of ASDs and aims to determine if the benefits of a ketogenic diet are correlated with changes in the gut flora. In order to determine the types of bacteria present, the 16s rRNA gene was amplified from the fecal samples of mice in treatment groups. The amplified DNA was then digested with a restriction enzyme (HaeIII) and Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (TRFLP) electropherograms were generated. Analyses of the electropherograms suggest there is no significant difference in number of species present or abundance of bacteria between any pre and post diet conditions, except for the normal mouse on a ketogenic diet. Additionally, there are 28 unidentified bacterial species that are common between two or more of the four experimental groups.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College Hartford Connecticut for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Biology.