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Fecal Transplant Nearly Halves Autism Symptoms In Children, Finds Study

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The gut-brain connection - i.e., the role of the gut microbiome on the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain - in autism spectrum disorders is a topic that has been garnering attention of late.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Children with ASD are at a greater risk of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, say, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

A new study conducted by researchers of the Arizona State University has demonstrated long-term beneficial effects for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders through a revolutionary technique known as Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT), a special type of fecal transplant.

Before going into the study findings, here's what fecal transplantation means...

Fecal transplantation involves taking stool from a healthy person, diluting it with water and transferring it into the patient's intestine. There are a number of ways to perform this procedure like, nasogastric tube, nasojejunal tube, upper tract endoscopy, colonoscopy or retention enema.

Now, coming back to the study…

The study, whose lead author is Dae-Wook Kang, involved 18 participants with ASD and gastrointestinal problems, and they underwent Microbiota Transfer Therapy, or MTT.

As part of the Microbiota Transfer Therapy, the participants were given a combination of antibiotics, a bowel cleanse, a stomach-acid suppressant for 2 weeks, followed by Standardized Human Gut Microbiota (gut bacteria from healthy donors) for 7 to 8 weeks.

The gastrointestinal and autism-related symptoms of the participants were assessed, and at the eighth-week follow-up, the researchers observed an 80% reduction in GI symptoms and a slow but steady improvement in core ASD symptoms.

Another notable finding is that even two years after the completion of the study, improvements in GI symptoms in the participants were maintained, and autism-related symptoms improved even more after the end of treatment.

There was a 45% reduction in core ASD symptoms - language, social interaction, and behavior - at the end of the two-year period compared to before treatment, say the researchers.

While at the beginning of the study, 83% of the participants were rated as being in the severe ASD category, at the two-year follow-up, only 17% were rated as severe, 39% were in the mild to moderate range, and 44% of participants had minimal or no symptoms of ASD.

The findings of the study titled "Long-term benefit of Microbiota Transfer Therapy in Autism Symptoms and Gut Microbiota," are published in Scientific Reports.

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