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Toledo Legal News - News OSU study finds fecal transplant alleviates some autism symptoms


A new study led by Ohio State University researchers has found that a fecal transplant in autistic children with gastrointestinal distress eases some of the behavioral symptoms in addition to rebalancing the gut.

The study, which was published in the journal Microbiome, explored the link between behavioral symptoms of autism and gastrointestinal distress and found improvement in both conditions following a fecal transplant and subsequent treatment.

In the study of 18 children with autism and moderate to severe gastrointestinal problems, parents and doctors said they saw positive changes that lasted at least eight weeks after the treatment, a university press release detailed.

Children without autism were included for comparison of bacterial and viral gut composition prior to the study.

"Transplants are working for people with other gastrointestinal problems," said Ann Gregory, one of the study's lead authors and a microbiology graduate student at The Ohio State University. "And, with autism, gastrointestinal symptoms are often severe, so we thought this could be potentially valuable.

"Following treatment, we found a positive change in gastrointestinal symptoms and neurological symptoms overall."

Gregory, along with her adviser and co-author Matthew Sullivan, conducted the research while at the University of Arizona. Other lead researchers on the project are from Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Previous research had established that children with autism typically have fewer types of some important bacteria in their guts and less bacterial diversity overall - a difference that held true in this study. The cause could be attributed to prescription of antibiotics in the first three years of life, researchers believe.

Gregory used genetic testing to examine the viral diversity in the guts of the treated children, which rebounded quickly, becoming more similar to the donor's microbiome.

"Those donor viruses seemed to help," she said.

In the study, the researchers used a method called microbiota transfer therapy, which started with the children receiving a two-week course of antibiotics to wipe out much of their existing gut flora, the press release explained.

Doctors next gave them an initial high-dose fecal transplant in liquid form.

In the seven to eight weeks that followed, the children drank smoothies blended with a lower-dose powder.

There currently exists no approved pharmaceutical treatment for autism.

The Arizona Board of Regents, the Autism Research Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation offered support in the study.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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