Under the Hood

Autism Treatment: Fecal Transplant Cuts Symptoms By Nearly 50%

There is a new promising treatment for autism spectrum disorder. The microbes that live in the intestines have been found effective to significantly reduce the core symptoms of the condition, including language, social interaction and behavior issues. 

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that the procedure Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT), a type of fecal transplant, could give long-term beneficial effects to children diagnosed with ASD. The researchers from Arizona State University said the improvements in autism symptoms remained long after treatment.

"We are finding a very strong connection between the microbes that live in our intestines and signals that travel to the brain," Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, a professor at the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute and ASU's School for Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, said in a statement posted Tuesday. "Two years later, the children are doing even better, which is amazing."

Gut microbes are known to help people digest food properly, train the immune system and prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Some earlier studies suggested that they could also affect brain communication and neurological health. 

Krajmalnik-Brown said that there could be a link between gastrointestinal problems and autism-related symptoms. In their study, the patients who had their gastrointestinal problems treated also showed improved behavior. 

Two years after the fecal transplant, patients continued to show improvements in gut symptoms as well as steady reduction of ASD symptoms. The team said there was a 45 percent reduction in language, social interaction and behavior problems. 

The researchers suggested that transferring healthy microbiota to individuals who lack certain gut bacteria could help people with autism. They also noted it is possible to "donate" a more diverse set of bacteria into the patient to see more positive results both in gut health and ASD symptoms. 

In the U.S., about one in every 59 children are diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the next decade, CDC expects to record nearly half a million people with autism to become adults, which the country is “unprepared" for.

No medical treatments are available to treat core symptoms of ASD.

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