Fecal Transplantation Appears to Affect Autism Symptoms in Children Fecal transplants may reduce behavioral and gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism, a small-scale study suggests.Children with autism often have gastrointestinal (GI) issues, including constipation and diarrhea, and previous research has found they may have abnormal gut bacteria. Fecal transplants provide healthy donor microbes—extracted from donor feces and screened—to people ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   April 01, 2017
Fecal Transplantation Appears to Affect Autism Symptoms in Children
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Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   April 01, 2017
Fecal Transplantation Appears to Affect Autism Symptoms in Children
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.22042017.15
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.22042017.15
Fecal transplants may reduce behavioral and gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism, a small-scale study suggests.Children with autism often have gastrointestinal (GI) issues, including constipation and diarrhea, and previous research has found they may have abnormal gut bacteria. Fecal transplants provide healthy donor microbes—extracted from donor feces and screened—to people with GI disease to rebalance their gut flora.
“Transplants are working for people with other gastrointestinal problems. And, with autism, gastrointestinal symptoms are often severe, so we thought this could be potentially valuable,” says Ann Gregory, a lead author of the study and a microbiology graduate student at Ohio State University. She worked on the research while at the University of Arizona.
The study, published in the journal Microbiome, followed 18 children (7–16 years old) with autism and moderate-to-severe gastrointestinal issues after they received a fecal transplant through a method called “microbiota transfer therapy.” They first received two weeks of antibiotics to get rid of most existing gut flora before receiving an initial high dose in liquid form. Then they drank daily smoothies with a lower-dose powder formula for seven to eight weeks.

Doctors saw autism-related behavioral symptoms drop by 22 percent at the completion of treatment and 24 percent eight weeks after completion of treatment.

For at least eight weeks post-treatment, the researchers observed in participants an 80-percent decrease in GI symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion and abdominal pain, with the exception of two patients. Children were evaluated through parent questionnaires and physician examinations.
On another scoring scale, the researchers found participants gained an average of 1.4 developmental years post-treatment. Using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, physicians saw autism-related behavioral symptoms drop by 22 percent at the completion of treatment and 24 percent eight weeks after completion of treatment. At the end of the study, researchers also measured bacterial diversity of their participants, which had increased to a level that was “indistinguishable” from neurotypical peers.
The researchers are cautiously optimistic about the results of their study, but offer some caveats. “We have to be mindful of the placebo effect,” says co-author Matthew Sullivan, Gregory’s adviser and an associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State. “But it does give us hope.” The authors also note the limits of the study’s size.
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April 2017
Volume 22, Issue 4