Autism numbers and ADHD meds

Autism Microbiome Study: 2 Studies Seek Participants

The 1st major funded Autism Microbiome Study:

“Autism Speaks Invests $2.3 Million in Research on Autism Gut-Brain Connection, which makes these studies the first major funded GI initiative that investigates microbiome, biological stress and  bowel  disorder treatment in children with autism.  

Clinical trials will span 3 years and are now filling if you are interested.  Please share this information on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… so that others can participate.  While this research might be a decade or so behind what parents know, it’s two decades ahead of our GP and many autism treatment facilities, so it’s needed, it’s important, and I’m very grateful to hear about it.

Data from 2014 show one in 68 children have autism;  the prevalence has alarmingly increased.  Additionally, the number of children with autism varies widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama, to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey.  Check out the slides at the end of this post for more details.

Autism Prevalence
Slide Source:
The First Study is an Autism Microbiome Study

 Dr. James Versalovic and his team of Baylor College of Medicine, a world pioneer in the study of the human microbiome,  will study changes in the microbiome that relate to autism symptoms and GI problems.  They will also look for signs of metabolic disturbances in the children participating in the study.

The study will follow up on the promising results of earlier research. Microbiota Modulate Behavioral and Physiological Abnormalities Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” published in Cell December 2013,  also funded by Autism Speaks, in which scientists eased autism-like behaviors in an autism mouse model by feeding the animals Bacteroides fragilis (see below slides). The microbe occurs naturally in a healthy human intestinal tract but is not known what its status is in autism.  “Bacteroides fragilis corrects gut permeability, alters microbial composition, and ameliorates defects in communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors.”Microbiota Modulate Behavioral and Physiological Abnormalities Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders

“This study determines whether there are important differences in the microbiome of individuals with ASD and whether these differences are specific to ASD and GI problems.  It will also help us understand possible metabolic differences specific to ASD and GI problems… , this knowledge will be critical in determining how to tailor future treatments, including probiotics,” comments Paul Wang, Autism Speaks senior vice president and head of medical research.

The study will enroll 375 children, ages 4 through 12, at three sites:

  1. Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine, Houston;
  2. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; and
  3. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. Nationwide is part of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN).

For comparison and analysis, children will fall into five groups:

  1. those affected by autism and GI problems,
  2. those with autism and no GI problems,
  3. those with GI problems but not autism,
  4. those with neither autism nor GI disorders, and
  5. the unaffected siblings of children who have autism.
Click here to receive more information when the study opens for enrollment.

This study will nicely piggyback the  2014 YouTube: The Potential Role of Gut Microbes To Correct Microbiome Imbalance in Autism,” presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, which provides more evidence that bacteria in the gut is linked to autism.  Both Dae Wook Kang, Arizona State University and Lita Proctor, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, discuss the potential role of gut microbes, diet, and autism.  Proctor says, “We are redefining what a pathogen is (disease causing bacterium)… we need to add the microbiome imbalance causes pathogenic behavior (disease causing).”

Kang et al found that children with autism have significantly different concentrations for 7 of the 50 compounds they identified, of certain bacterial-produced chemicals, called metabolites, in their feces compared to children without ASD.  “Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis,” says Kang.  “We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function… Gut microorganisms are thought to play a major role in the brain, affecting mood, anxiety, and pain.  Now we are seeing they may play a role in development as well.”

… The community of microbiome determines the metabolites.  Ten years ago the technology was not able to see the large amount of metabolites crossing over microbiota and affecting humans.  Antibody profiles may be a possible bio-marker too. Want to see how metabolites change with altered diet.  Warranted for future study.  Microbiome makes metabolites that may change human  behavior.   This podcast was discussed in the post, FOOD MANAGING IBD & AUTISM: THE STUDIES.  You can find my notes from the podcast included in that post, under my signature, for those interested.

Second Study:  Constipation and Autism (one goal of successful treatment is significant reduction of behavioral medications)

This study recruits 120 children affected by autism through clinics affiliated with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of California-Irvine.  Both sites are part of the Autism Speaks ATN.

A prerequisite for recruitment is that the child suffers from chronic constipation, a condition unusually common among individuals with autism.  Over the course of a year, they will receive the highest standard of care following gold-standard guidelines to address and relieve this bowel disorder.

At the same time, the researchers will assess changes in autism symptoms with behavioral tests and analyze blood samples for biochemical signs of oxidative stress.

Relevance of oxidative stress:

“Metabolism is the body’s way of converting nutrients into useable energy. As a byproduct of energy production, metabolic processes also produce dangerously unstable atoms and molecules, known as free radicals.  Free radicals strip electrons from nearby molecules in order to achieve stability, creating a string of more unstable molecules in the process. The production of free radicals is generally held in check by the body’s supply of neutralizing antioxidants, and the damage to nearby cells is minimal.  However, in cases of oxidative stress, the number of free radicals overwhelms the activity of antioxidants, and can interfere with cell functions. Previous research has associated oxidative stress with Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome and the general aging process.” –Researchers Unravel Role of Oxidative Stress in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Previous studies have associated oxidative stress – a sign of cell damage – with autism and constipation.  The theory is:  Autism can be caused or worsened by “oxidative stress” – an imbalance of antioxidants vs. oxidants in the body.  Dr. Levitt and his team have published research,  Researchers Unravel Role of Oxidative Stress in Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Enrichment of Elevated Plasma F2t-Isoprostane Levels in Individuals with Autism Who Are Stratified by Presence of Gastrointestinal Dysfunctionshowing that oxidative stress is elevated in children with autism. They likewise found elevated oxidative stress in children with constipation. They found the highest levels of all in children with both autism and constipation.

In this new Autism Speaks-funded study, they will be assessing oxidative stress levels before and after successful treatment for constipation. They’ll look for associations between oxidative stress levels and both GI and behavioral symptoms.

In addition, it is known that digestive enzymes and biotin are decreased for autism which likely contributes to the bowel  issues (see below slides from 1st International Symposium on the Microbiome in Health and Disease with a Special Focus on Autism.)  It will be interesting to learn how resolution of detox bowel pathways likely positively impacts gut healing and micronutrient absorption.

For comparison, the researchers will track behavior and oxidative stress in children who have autism but are not affected by GI problems. This information will come from anonymous information provided by families participating in the Autism Speaks ATN patient registry.

“This study will advance our understanding of the possible ripple effects of thorough treatment for constipation in individuals with ASD,” Dr. Wang comments. “If it shows that successful GI treatment improves more than abdominal pain – if it helps children with ASD be more receptive to social interactions – we will have gained critical knowledge. It may well be that thoroughly addressing GI issues will significantly reduce the need for behavioral medications for many of our children.” This will change the current treatment paradigm and motivate healthcare providers to invest the time and effort to assess for constipation in individuals with autism and treat it thoroughly.

Click here to receive more information when the study opens for enrollment.
Honestly, the information gleamed here is not really “new” research.

There are many autism anecdotal dietary reports (see the post, FOOD MANAGING IBD & AUTISM: THE STUDIES for more information) .

But, the Autism Speaks study(s) are a first major GI initiative type study, and they are needed to move this information into the mainstream.  Please participate if you can, or share this information on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…  so others can.

While this “new” research happens, parents will continue testing stool through labs like Great Plains Laboratory, and treating constipation with diets like GAPS, SCD, PALEO, PALEO AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL, Body Ecology…and probiotics.  As the below slide indicates, the ScanBrit initiative did find autism improvement on a gluten-casein-free diet along with reduced ADHD (common in autism) with the most pronounced benefit occurring for  those aged between 7 to 9 years.  While the Autism Speaks research might be a decade or so behind what parents know, it’s two decades ahead of our GP and many autism treatment facilities, so it’s needed, it’s important, and I’m very grateful to hear about it.

I actually had one autism parent tell me, “Good one!” when I suggested they try gluten- and casein-free protocols, to which the parents then recanted the severity of symptoms so as to not guilt themselves for dismissing all avenues of treatment.  No slice of bread or glass of milk is worth it if in fact autistic symptom severity is decreased and a child’s life is better.  I wish the Autism Speaks initiative much success as they work to better the lives of many children as one in 68 has autism, and the numbers affected keep dramatically rising.

In health through awareness,


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