by Teresa Conrick
The BLUE lights of AUTISM AWARENESS month are getting a bit depressing. Don’t get me wrong -- it is nice that people are wanting to help and be kind to so many affected children and young adults, but the reality is that the increasing numbers https://www.phillyvoice.com/autism-rate-new-jersey-43-percent-increase-rutgers-study/ are a signal that something is so -- not -- right.
We have seen many Light it up BLUE reports this year on genetic chasing, which goes nowhere, and then stories of higher functioning individuals who are able to navigate in the world. Now those personal stories are terrific, but there are many, many left behind who are nonverbal, cannot eat many foods, have seizures, develop neuroimmune and neuropsychiatric behaviors that negatively impact them each day.
One thing that is a step in the right direction is that researchers are directing their attention to helping children and also adults with both the pain and suffering of autism. Yes, there is pain, both physical and social-emotional. Almost 70% of those with an autism diagnosis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3981895/ have gastrointestinal issues that cause daily suffering. Since we keep seeing more and more studies linking the GUT to the BRAIN, it makes sense that sensory and emotional issues are deeply connected https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170629134241.htm,
As we light up so many city skylines with BLUE to show our commitment in recognizing and accepting AUTISM, it is equally important to investigate causes and treatments. I have been writing about microbiota transfer therapy (MTT) for years now, as I have a daughter severely affected, and the research seems so solid and valuable about MTT’s impact in autism. Let’s check out this newest installment in the research - the full study, Long-term benefit of Microbiota Transfer Therapy on autism symptoms and gut microbiota https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42183-0
I have been impressed so much with these researchers for years now and this study shows us how correct they were:
Many studies have reported abnormal gut microbiota in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), suggesting a link between gut microbiome and autism-like behaviors. Modifying the gut microbiome is a potential route to improve gastrointestinal (GI) and behavioral symptoms in children with ASD, and fecal microbiota transplant could transform the dysbiotic gut microbiome toward a healthy one by delivering a large number of commensal microbes from a healthy donor. We previously performed an open-label trial of Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT) that combined antibiotics, a bowel cleanse, a stomach-acid suppressant, and fecal microbiota transplant, and observed significant improvements in GI symptoms, autism-related symptoms, and gut microbiota. Here, we report on a follow-up with the same 18 participants two years after treatment was completed. Notably, most improvements in GI symptoms were maintained, and autism-related symptoms improved even more after the end of treatment. Important changes in gut microbiota at the end of treatment remained at follow-up, including significant increases in bacterial diversity and relative abundances of Bifidobacteria and Prevotella. 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.
Some news and science press releases had this to say:
Improved gut diversity causes 50% reduction in autism symptoms https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190411/Improved-gut-diversity-causes-5025-reduction-in-autism-symptoms.aspx
There is a range of comorbidities observed in people with autism, and the prevalence and severity of gastrointestinal problems seemingly correlate with the severity of the core autism-related behavioral problems individuals experience….GI symptoms associated with autism include chronic constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, with gastroesophageal reflux and gastritis being reported as well…..There are currently no approved medical treatments to help the core symptoms of autism, from difficulties with social communication to repetitive behavior.
However, innovative research is being carried out concerning the gut microbiome, the community of microbes that exist in the intestines and play important roles in digestion, the immune system, and regulating the growth of harmful bacteria. Some research has suggested that the gut microbiome may also be able to relieve neurological problems as well….severity of ASD symptoms had also reduced by 47% at the end of the two-year follow-up tests….
Radical Fecal Transplant Therapy in Kids Has Reduced Their Autism Severity by 47% https://www.sciencealert.com/autism-severity-cut-in-half-in-kids-who-underwent-radical-faecal-transplant-therapy
A study on the effects of a form of faecal transplant therapy in children on the autism spectrum found participants not only experienced fewer gut problems, but continued to show ongoing improvements in autism symptoms two years after the procedure….But to be taken seriously as a potential therapy, there needed to be long term improvements. So a return to the original group of volunteers for another check-up was in order.
It turned out those new microbes were settling in nicely.
"In our original paper in 2017, we reported an increase in gut diversity together with beneficial bacteria after microbiota transfer therapy (MTT), and after two years, we observed diversity was even higher and the presence of beneficial microbes remained,",,,Previous studies have repeatedly pointed to the potential benefits of swapping out a 'bad' microbial communities for a better one, either through using probiotics or courses of antibiotics.
Most showed promising short-term effects, suggesting there was more to be explored when it comes to gut-based therapies.
"In many cases, when you are able to treat those gastrointestinal problems, their behaviour improves,"
Now that we're learning our neurological health is intimately connected with our digestive system, transplanting microbial communities from a healthy gut is seen as the next big thing in treating brain disorders.
“transplanting microbial communities from a healthy gut is seen as the next big thing in treating brain disorders.”
As important as that statement is, we don’t see it enough in the news or in the research. My gratitude to these researchers, Dae-Wook Kang, James B. Adams, Devon M. Coleman, Elena L. Pollard, Juan Maldonado, Sharon McDonough-Means, J. Gregory Caporaso & Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, and other brave souls, who are helping to change the future for our loved ones.
If anyone is interested, I believe they are still recruiting adults for a similar study - Microbiota Transfer Therapy for Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Who Have Gastrointestinal Disorders (MTT-ASD) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03408886