Fecal transplant appears to be a promising treatment for autism spectrum disorder or ASD, a condition currently affecting about one in every 59 children in the United States.
The condition is characterized by repetitive behaviors, as well as difficulty in communication and social skills.
Microbes In Gut
The microbiome is the collection of microbes in the intestines that play a role in the digestion of food, immune system, and control of harmful bacteria.
Recent studies have shown that gut microbiome also affects brain communication and neurological health, which can trigger a range of disease.
Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, from Arizona State University, and colleagues involved 18 children with ASD to investigate the link between the gut microbiome and autism-like behaviors.
The children previously underwent Microbiota Transfer Therapy or MTT, a special type of fecal transplant through which the children received healthy donor gut bacteria.
Gastrointestinal Problems In Children With Autism
Prior to the treatment, the participants who were between 7 and 17 years old, also suffered from moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, and abdominal pain since they were infants.
After the treatment, the children showed marked improvements in behavior and digestive symptoms.
Many kids with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal problems and studies have shown that these children tend to have worse autism-related symptoms. Researchers said that in many cases when these gastrointestinal problems are treated, behavior also improves.
"We are finding a very strong connection between the microbes that live in our intestines and signals that travel to the brain," Krajmalnik-Brown said.
45 Percent Reduction In ASD Symptoms
In the new study, the researchers found that two years after the treatment. the initial improvements in gut symptoms remained. The participants also showed a slow, but steady reduction in ASD symptoms. Core ASD symptoms were reduced by 45 percent two years post-treatment.
"Our observations demonstrate the long-term safety and efficacy of MTT as a potential therapy to treat children with ASD who have GI problems, and warrant a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in the future," the researchers wrote in their study.
The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports on April 9.