Fecal transplants may improve autism symptoms

Behavioral symptoms in autistic children may improve after a fecal transplant, according to a new study published in the journal Microbiome.

Previous research has found children with autism typically have fewer types of important gut bacteria and less bacterial diversity as a whole. Gastrointestinal issues and behavioral symptoms of autism often accompany one other.

To assess the possible benefits of fecal transplants, researchers examined the cases of 18 children with autism and moderate to severe gastrointestinal issues who received fecal transplants. The children, on average, experienced an 80 percent reduction in symptoms based upon the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale. Additionally, parents reported behavioral symptoms associated with autism improved significantly after the procedure. The improvements lasted at least eight weeks after the procedure when the final follow-up for the study was conducted.

Study limitations include its small size, the fact that both parents and children knew they were participating in an experimental treatment and the researcher's heavy reliance on parental observations.

"We have to be mindful of the placebo effect and we have to take it with a grain of salt," said study co-author Matthew Sullivan, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "But it does give us hope."

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