An Unexpected New Treatment Possibility for Kids with Autism
The number of children diagnosed with autism in the United States continues to grow. Now, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. This is up from 1 in 150 in 2000. The root cause of autism in most cases remains a mystery. Parents, teachers, and doctors often try a wide range of treatments for children with autism including behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and social skills classes.
However, a strange new treatment may be beneficial in an entirely new way — fecal transplants. Recent studies have shown that microbes living in the gut can affect humans in all kinds of ways, including impacting neurological health. Researchers noted that children with autism did not have as many microbes living in their gut as neurotypical children and also lacked some types of beneficial bacteria. When children with autism were given fecal transplants to address these differences in gut health, researchers saw a profound change in many of the children who received transplants and the changes appear to be long-lasting. This process is called Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT) and was initially used to treat infections.
At the start of the study, 83 percent if the children demonstrated ‘severe' autism symptoms. However, even two years after the study ended, only 17 percent of the children who had fecal transplants still exhibited moderate to severe symptoms of autism and the beneficial gut bacteria were still present in the children's intestinal tracts. Moreover, 44 percent of the children in the study fell below the cut-off point for diagnosis of mild autism. Many parents reported continued improvement in their children's behavior even after the study ended.
The results of this study indicate that, at least in some cases, autism may be rooted in the gut rather than the brain. Fecal transplants are not widely available yet, though. More studies are currently underway to see if the study's results can be replicated in more children. If successful, fecal transplants may soon become the first medically-approved treatment for autism. Stay tuned!