Autism And Fecal Transplant

Fecal Transplant May Help Children With Autism, New Research Claims. 

A report published in the journal, Microbiome, on the 23rd of January 2017, by researchers from The Ohio State University, Arizona State University, as well as the University of Northern Arizona, suggests that fecal transplantation may help improve symptoms in Autistic children. 

  • 18 autistic children, between the ages of 7 and 16 where first of all treated with special antibiotics that works only on the gut surface and does not get absorbed. This is aimed at killing off any "bad bacteria" in the gut. 
  • The kids where then given laxatives to clear or cleanse their bowels before a fecal transplant was done by daily giving them fecal material processed and cleaned following FDA approved methods for ensuring safety for 7 to 8 weeks.
  • Parents and doctors where instructed to note any change in behaviour in these kids as well as symptoms of bowel problems. 
  • At the end of the 8 weeks period, there was a whooping 82% reduction in gut symptoms in these children and their developmental age improved by an average of an extra 1.4 years!

Though the researchers have cautioned that the findings requires further larger studies to validate it, this study has a huge implications for the treatment of autism, going forward. 

Autism And Fecal Transplant

Autism is a medical term used to describe a complex spectrum of conditions that start in childhood characterised by impaired social interactions, problems with communication and repetitive stereotypical behaviours.

The exact cause of autism is unknown.

It is believed to be caused by a complex interaction between genetic makeup and factors in the environment that causes a bad effect on the part of the brain responsible for speech, emotions and behavior. Altered balance in the normal gut bacteria population as well as possible involvement of parasites such as giardia, has been suspected examples of such environmental factors.

During vaginal delivery, the newborn would normally pick up some bacteria from the mother's vagina as well as fecal contamination as it passes down the birth canal. From this exposure, the newborn develops and establish its own unique balance of good bacteria that then gets fed with components in the colostrum or first milk that comes out of the mother's breast for next 24 to 96 hours. 

In children who are:

  • Born by cesarean section 
  • Gets a high dose or repeated dose of antibiotics within the first 2 to 3 years of life 
  • Never breastfed

They tend not to have a healthy balance of gut bacteria. 

Though it is absolutely difficult to suggest that these factors alone would lead to autism, a combination of all three factors in a child with a tendency for autism is almost certain to make autism worse in that child. Such conclusions have been reached because improving the balance of gut bacteria in autistic children improves symptoms. 

The use of fecal transplant or fecal microbiota transplant as shown by the above study is aimed at restoring the normal gut flora or bacteria balance and supports the theory of gut dysbiosis as a contributing factor in autism. 

Relationship Between Autism And Abdominal Pain

For many years, research has shown that over 70 to 80% of children with autism do suffer with gut or bowel symptoms. This is in stark contrast to less than 29% occurrence of such bowel issues in children who do not suffer with any form of Autism. 

Constipation, heartburn, chronic diarrhea and food intolerance are common gut concerns seen in autistic children, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain and colic, sleep disorder, auto-aggressive behaviours or what may seem like self-harm, unexplained irritability, hypersensitivity to sounds and lights, teeth grinding and abnormal toileting behaviours.

There have been many explanations given to explain this unusually high incidence of gut problems in Autistic kids. 

Such explanations, as mentioned earlier, include:

  • Parasitic infections in these children. Some studies have demonstrated presence of parasitic infections with Giardia (52%), Helicobacter pylori (55%) and other forms of infections.
  • Dysbiosis.  Dysbiosis is a term that describes an imbalance in the proportion of bad bacteria that gets into us and the good bacteria that naturally lines the wall of our gut, performing beneficial actions like production of immune preserving chemicals, vitamin synthesis, destruction of bad bugs that get into us, proper filtration of substances through the lining of our gut, digestion of difficult to breakdown food components and many many more functions. 

Especially in autistic children who have difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and frustration, treatment of these kids with a good balance of probiotics or good bacteria, clearing the gut of parasite and sensible use of supplements have resulted in marked improvement in their autistic symptoms and behaviors.