Study: Treatment Restoring Gut Bacteria In Autistic Children Alleviates Symptoms
In two recently published studies, researchers discovered that the lack of non-pathogenic bacteria in the gut could potentially be the cause of autism-spectrum disorder (ASD), according to The Economist.
ASD is characterized by repetitive and restricted behavior as well as difficulties those with it have in reading the emotions of, and communicating with other people. In the U.S., about one child in 59 is diagnosed with ASD.
Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown of Arizona State University and her associates previously sequenced the DNA of gut bacteria present in 20 autistic children. They found that the children in their sample were missing hundreds of thousands of bacterial species that inhabit a “neurotypical” person’s intestines.
Dr. Brown and her colleague, Dr. James Adams, tested the idea that restoring the missing bacteria might alleviate autism’s symptoms.
Using a process called microbiota transfer therapy (MTT) on 18 autistic children aged between seven and 16 -- with 15 of the participants regarded as having “severe” autism -- they carefully transplanted bacteria from a healthy individual to the children.
The organisms thrived and the children began undergoing behavioral changes. After 18 weeks of treatment, the children showed reduced symptoms of autism.
After two years, only three of them were still rated as severe, while eight fell below the diagnostic cut-off point for ASD.
The scientific breakthrough has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look into the matter.
Massachusetts-based Finch Therapeutics Group hopes to commercialize the use of MTT as a treatment for autism and the FDA has granted the effort “fast track” status, which should speed up the review process.