Gut ‘Bug’ Transplant – A Long Lasting Benefit For Autistic Kids
Since I learned that my daughter was autistic, my interest in the topic has grown tremendously. I have been looking for ongoing research on any possible cure or one that will guarantee her a better life.
One of the most difficult issues I have had to cope with is the series of health challenges she had to endure. Even if a cure would never be found for autism, I will be one of the happiest mothers alive if there will be a way to prevent some of those health challenges or minimize their occurrence.
Autism is really a serious health concern considering that 1 in 68 United States children suffer from this condition. However, I feel the condition is not getting the amount of attention it should. I still commend the numerous researchers that are working hard to find a cause and possibly a cure for autism. Through the tireless works of these researchers, we now know that autism does not only have genetic causes but also environmental causes.
Why Research On Gut Bacteria?
For a long time now it has been established that children with ASD usually suffer more gastrointestinal disturbances compared to children without the condition. The rates of constipation and diarrhea for children with ASD can go as high as 3.5 percent compared to children not on the autism spectrum while the rate of abdominal pain is 2.5 times higher.
The rates of constipation and diarrhea for children with ASD can go as high as 3.5 percent
Several studies have shown that the intestinal microbiome (the community of organisms in the intestine) of children with ASD is significantly different from that of children not on the autism spectrum. According to researchers, the manifestation of autism symptoms usually arise from the reduced amount of the following bacteria in the gut; Coprococcus, Prevotella, and Veillonellaceae.
Details Of The Research
Although I didn’t have the privilege of having my daughter tested for these bacteria, the researchers who brought this theory tested eighteen young people between the ages of 7 and 16.
The focus of the first part of the experiment was to reduce the number of bacteria that colonized the gut of the participants. To do this, the participants were given oral vancomycin (an antibiotic) for fourteen days. On the fifteenth day, the participants were given MoviPrep which cleared the bowel and gut rid of the remaining gut bacteria and the antibiotics.
In the next phase of the experiment, the focus of the researchers was a way of systematically restoring the good gut bacteria. Hence, the children got a mixture of bacteria in milk, chocolate milk, or juice. This lasted for two days. The bacteria administered to the children were isolates from the stool of healthy individuals.
Subsequently, the probiotic (probiotics are live organisms that have positive health benefits on the body of their host) treatment continued as daily oral dose and lasted for a duration of eight weeks. The children were monitored for 8 weeks after the treatment to ascertain if there were any long-term effects.
The Research Findings
The researchers discovered that out of the 18 children with ASD, 16 of them showed up to a fifty percent improvement in constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain symptoms. The measurement of the improvement was done by their parents using the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale.
This is particularly interesting to me because constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea usually come in pairs for children with autism. I was always usually scared and confused on how to deal with these issues when they came in pairs.
Even more interesting from the finding of the researchers was that improving the gut flora of the autistic children also led to a 20 to 25 percent improvement in autism behaviors especially sleeping habits and better social skills. One of the lead authors from Arizona State University, Dae-Wook Kang, said,
“We saw a big increase in microbe diversity and a big increase in certain bacteria, especially Prevotella, which we previously found was low in children with autism spectrum disorder”.
I also found that a similar experiment using mice in 2016 yielded a positive result. The experiment passed phase 1 and 2 trials. If phase 3 is also a success it will be up to the FDA to decide if it will be approved as a treatment for ASD. I hope this goes ahead to give my daughter and many autism kids out there a better life.