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Fecal Transplants Improve Autism Symptoms In Children

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Fecal transplant may sound gross but according to a new study from Ohio State University, fecal transplants may actually be beneficial to children with autism.

Fecal Transplant And Fecal Microbiota Transplant

Fecal transplant, otherwise known as bacteriotherapy, is the method of introducing microbes from healthy donors into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of people suffering from severe stomach problems, such as recurrent C. difficile colitis. Fecal transplant efficiently replenishes the good bacteria or probiotics that have been killed or suppressed, usually through the excessive use of antibiotics.

In the study, the researchers used microbiota transfer therapy or fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). In FMT, fecal sample is collected from the healthy donor, mixed with a saline or other solution, filtered, and transferred to the patient via colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or enema.

A Potential Treatment for Autism

"Transplants are working for people with other gastrointestinal problems. And, with autism, gastrointestinal symptoms are often severe, so we thought this could be potentially valuable," said Ann Gregory, one of the study's lead authors and a microbiology graduate student at The Ohio State University.

The study, which is set to be published in the journal Microbiome, looked into 18 kids diagnosed with autism and moderate to severe GI conditions. Both doctors and parents reported that they saw positive changes in all of the participants' stomach health and behavior autism symptoms that lasted eight weeks after the fecal transplant treatment was done.

Nevertheless, parents with autistic children should never attempt to do fecal transplant at home. "More research is needed before this can be used for treatment," Gregory warned. "Microbiota should be very carefully screened, and the treatment should be done under medical supervision."

The Link Between Autism And Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal disorders are consistently seen among children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Research shows 70 percent of the children with ASD had GI issues compared to 42 percent of the children with developmental disorder other than ASD. Autistic individuals, like everyone else, are also susceptible to gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and severe food allergies.

The exact reason behind why GI disorders are more pervasive in children with autism is yet unknown. However, there is a push for researchers to focus their work on addressing autism during the early life of children.

"Even though GI symptoms are common in early childhood, physicians should be mindful that children with ASD may be experiencing more GI difficulties in the first three years of life," autism researchers from Columbia University, wrote in the March 25 issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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