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article imageFecal transplants show success against autism

By Tim Sandle     Jan 27, 2017 in Health
The symptoms of autism, tied with gastrointestinal problems, have been addressed through fecal transplants, according to one study. The study is small, but it does pave the way for further research into fecal transplants as a therapeutic tool.
Autism is not a single condition. In fact there are a range of different learning and behavior issues that run across the so-called autism spectrum (hence the term "autism spectrum disorder"). The cause of autism is unknown, however a combination of genetic and environmental factors are thought to act together. Autism appears in childhood, although not until a child is around three years of age. One cause for some forms of autism could be microbial.
The link between autism and bacteria has been drawn out from several studies. Here research suggests that the bacteria that reside in the human get influence children with autism spectrum disorder. This is related to stomach conditions in children who go onto show signs of autism.
With this, one research group have been looking at the use of fecal transplants as a potential therapy. With fecal transplants (or 'fecal bacteriotherapy') the aim to restore the balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the colon. The procedure involves either single to multiple infusions (such as by enema) of bacterial fecal flora originating from a healthy donor, or a fecal transplant in pill form.
The new research, from Ohio State University, was based on a study of 18 children with autism and moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems. Following the fecal therapy, medics observed positive changes (assessed via the Childhood Autism Rating Scale) that lasted at least eight weeks after the treatment. As a control, children without autism were included for comparison. The replacement of one type of dominant bacterium with another appears to be the trigger for the behavioral improvements; however, the actual reasons, at the cellular level, as to why changes occur is unknown.
The new research has been published in the journal Microbiome, under the heading "Microbiota Transfer Therapy alters gut ecosystem and improves gastrointestinal and autism symptoms: an open-label study." While the results are encouraging, further study is needed.
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