Medical

Fecal transplants result in massive long-term reduction in autism symptoms

A two-year study on fecal transplants in autism sufferers has found they can reduce symptoms by as much as 45 percent
A two-year study on fecal transplants in autism sufferers has found they can reduce symptoms by as much as 45 percent
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New research sheds new light on the connection between gut health and autism
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New research sheds new light on the connection between gut health and autism
A two-year study on fecal transplants in autism sufferers has found they can reduce symptoms by as much as 45 percent
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A two-year study on fecal transplants in autism sufferers has found they can reduce symptoms by as much as 45 percent
The team of ASU researchers behind the new study, left to right, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, James Adams, and Dae Wook Kang were inspired to explore the gut-brain connection as it relates to autism symptoms and gastrointestinal issues
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The team of ASU researchers behind the new study, left to right, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, James Adams, and Dae Wook Kang were inspired to explore the gut-brain connection as it relates to autism symptoms and gastrointestinal issues

Scientific research continues to uncover interesting connections between the gut microbiome and human health, including everything from depression to PTSD to autoimmune disease. Another example of this are the emerging ties between gut health and autism, with an exciting new study demonstrating how boosting microbial diversity via fecal transplants can dramatically reduce its symptoms in the long term.

One in every 59 children born in the US is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and unfortunately for many of them, chronic gastrointestinal issues are a harsh reality of their condition. According to scientists at Arizona State University (ASU), who conducted the new study, around 30 to 50 percent of autism sufferers experience serious gut problems like constipation, diarrhea and stomach pain.

"Many kids with autism have gastrointestinal problems, and some studies, including ours, have found that those children also have worse autism-related symptoms," says ASU's Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown,. "In many cases, when you are able to treat those gastrointestinal problems, their behavior improves."

The new study builds on earlier research from 2017 that found introducing new bacteria via fecal transplants in 18 autistic children brought about marked improvements in their behavior, as measured through questionnaires assessing their social skills, hyperactivity, communication and other factors.

These improvements held for eight weeks, an impressive outcome to be sure. But the Arizona State University researchers wanted to investigate the enduring effects of the treatment, which involved a bowel cleanse and daily transplants of fecal microbiota over a period of seven to eight weeks. Prior to the treatment, these children all had far lower diversity of gut microbes than those without autism.

"Kids with autism are lacking important beneficial bacteria, and have fewer options in the bacterial menu of important functions that bacteria provide to the gut than typically developing kids," Krajmalnik-Brown says.

The team of ASU researchers behind the new study, left to right, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, James Adams, and Dae Wook Kang were inspired to explore the gut-brain connection as it relates to autism symptoms and gastrointestinal issues
The team of ASU researchers behind the new study, left to right, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, James Adams, and Dae Wook Kang were inspired to explore the gut-brain connection as it relates to autism symptoms and gastrointestinal issues

Now, two years after the treatment, the researchers have found that not only did the benefits persist, they seem to have continued to improve. Doctors observations at the eight-week mark found that psychological autism symptoms of the patients had decreased by 24 percent. Now, they've almost been cut in half, with a professional evaluator finding a decrease of 45 percent in autism symptoms compared to baseline.

Prior to the study, 83 percent of participants had "severe" autism. Now, only 17 percent are rated as severe, 39 percent as mild or moderate, and incredibly, 44 percent are below the cut-off for mild ASD.

"We are finding a very strong connection between the microbes that live in our intestines and signals that travel to the brain," says Krajmalnik-Brown. "Two years later, the children are doing even better, which is amazing."

From here, the scientists are now working on a larger placebo-controlled clinical trial to verify their results, with a view to gaining FDA approval for the therapy.

The team's study appears in the journal Scientific Reports, and you can hear from Krajmalnik-Brown in the video below.

Source: Arizona State University

The Gut Microbiome: Opening new possibilities for autism treatment

13 comments
RangerJones
Who'd a thought?
Wolf0579
A stunning development! I wonder how many other conditions can be traced back to gut bacteria being out of whack?
Expanded Viewpoint
It puts a whole new therapy into play for reclaiming these otherwise mostly lost lives!! I can hardly wait to see this get implemented on a wide scale now! Randy
Grunchy
I am cautiously yet eagerly optimistic!
andy68
It is good to see conventional medicine catching up at last. For far to long it has been entirely lost in the unscientific backwater of searching to find a pill for every ill, rather than using the scientific method to discover the causes of health, and therefore the reasons for its loss, and the means of restoring it. Money and medicine are a bad combination, responsible for turning medicine into a saleable commodity in the form of pills and potions, rather than a scientific approach to understanding health and its proper maintenance. Just as darkness is the absence of light, disease is only the absence of health, and just as studying darkness will not create any light, so studying disease will not create health.
michael_dowling
When I was growing up,I never heard of a single autistic child in any family I was aware of. What is different about life today? There were many more pollutants around when I was a kid,and I am pushing 65.Anyway,this fecal transplant research sounds very good. BTW,my neighbour has an autistic kid.
Wombat
This is great news, but did I read it right? "involved a bowel cleanse and daily transplants of fecal microbiota over a period of seven to eight weeks." This seems like a lot for a child to go through.
Paul Muad'Dib
Compared to the past, today we live in a very sanitary environment. Every cleaning product on the market proudly proclamations that it kills bacteria. We are obsessed with it and now it’s come back to bite us in the ass.
Kathleen
Can this help adults with autism?
aksdad
The placebo-control study is vital. I'm surprised that they didn't do it in the original study. At this point they don't know if some of these patients just got better on their own, regardless of fecal transplants. After the placebo-control study they should know pretty definitively if the fecal transplants are the key.