Gut Microbiome Trial Results “Promising” for ASD Treatment

The recently published results of a clinical trial suggest that the gut microbiome might be the key to developing a new, potential treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The gut microbiome is a collection of microorganisms that live inside the human body. The microbiome is crucial when it comes to immunity and health, as it acts as a barrier against other, more harmful microorganisms.

Results of several previous studies suggest abnormal gut bacteria in children with ASD. New research, which has been published in the Microbiome journal, examines how improving the gut microbiome can possibly treat autism.

The clinical trial, led collaboratively between three universities, consisted of 18 participants aged 7 to 16 years old. The trial evaluated the impact of Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT) on the composition of the gut microbiome.

The participants underwent a 10-week treatment consisting of antibiotics, bowel cleansing and an extended faecal microbiota transplant. This is a form of treatment that has previously been shown to be effective in the treatment of gut infections and involves taking the faecal matter from a healthy donor and transplanting it into the colon of a patient.

The clinical trial consisted of treatment with the antibiotic vancomycin for the first 14 days. After this time period, the participants were then required to fast for 12-24 hours. During this time, they also received bowel cleansing to prepare for the next stage of the trial.

The trial continued with the repopulation of the gut microbiome, which was completed by the administration of a high dose of standardised human gut microbiota.

After the initial high dose, the patients then received lower doses of the standardised human gut microbiota along with a stomach acid suppressant. The patients were monitored for another 8 weeks after the end of the treatment, to examine the longevity of the effects of the treatment.

The results of the treatment showed that there was a reduction of 80 percent in gastrointestinal symptoms previously associated with ASD. This was along with significant improvements in behavioural symptoms of ASD. These behavioural improvements also continued throughout the 8-week follow-up period.

In conclusion, as a result of the transplant, the bacterial diversity of the gut microbiome improved. There was also an increase in the presence of Bifidobacterium, Desulfovibrio, and Prevotella, which was previously found to be low in children with ASD.

The leaders of the research team, Prof. Krajmalnik-Brown, Prof. James Adams, and Prof. Dae-Wook Kang, explained that although the results are very promising, they would need to take advantage of clinical trial services to progress further research.

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March 2017