Autism seems to be an epidemic growing in severity across the world.
The rate of autism in the United States has been on the rise since researchers began tracking it in 2000. In the United States, 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism. The root cause of this is not fully clear. Some researchers believe that the rate of autism is only increasing due to growing awareness of the condition as well as changes to diagnostic criteria. But despite the reason for the rise, the rate of autism is increasingly alarming.
Treating autism is not always easy.
Some medications are able to help control the symptoms. Behavioral, communication, and other therapies are helpful to some as well. But a new study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University is providing some hope that another effective treatment for autism may lie in your gut.
A growing body of research suggests that the microbiomes in your gut have a tangible impact on brain communication. A new study published on April 9th, 2019 in Nature conducted by researchers James Adams, Ph.D, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Ph.D., and lead author Dae-Wook Kang, Ph.D found that children diagnosed with ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, who recevied Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT), experienced improvements in health and autism symptoms even at two years post-treatment.
MTT is a revolutionary new technique originally pioneered by Dr. Thomas Borody.
Why it is that fecal transplantation works is not fully clear, but it is believed that MTT repopulates a patient’s microbiome with healthy bacteria that compete with and offset unhealthy bacteria.
“The human gut and brain interact in complex ways, and abnormal conditions in the gut may predispose individuals to neurodevelopmental disorders,” the authors of the study wrote in Scientific Reports. “Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, for example, have been known to experience chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms as a common co-occurring medical condition, suggesting the presence of a gut-brain axis.”
But Kang, Adams, and Krajmalnik-Brown’s research demonstrates that transferring a healthy microbiota can help improve and balance the environment in a patient’s gut. Among the 18 patients who consented to be participants in this study, all reported chronic GI problems, like constipation and/or diarrhea. On average, there was a 58% reduction in Gastrointestinal Symoptom Rating Scale and a 26% reduction in the number of days of abnormal stool relative to the baseline.
Additionally, families of the participants reported that some of the symptoms of autism had improved.
“Based on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) rated by a professional evaluator, the severity of ASD at the two-year follow-up was 47% lower than baseline, compared to 23% lower at the end of week 10,” the study’s authors wrote.
“At the beginning of the open-label trial, 83% of participants rated in the severe ASD diagnosis per the CARS. At the two-year follow-up, only 17% were rated as severe, 39% were in the mild to moderate range, and 44% of participants were below the ASD diagnostic cut-off scores.”
Although encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive results of the study, the researchers recommend more comprehensive studies be conducted that include double-blind and placebo-controlled randomized trials with more participants.