Autism and Antibioitics Study

Study Recruiting for Antibiotics, Autism Symptoms

Summary:  The 2014 1st International Symposium on the Microbiome in Health and Disease with a Special Focus on Autism brought out anecdotal parent findings that autism symptoms improved or worsened on antibiotics.  Baylor College of Medicine study in conjunction with Texas Children’s Hospital, is now investigating those findings!  If you have an autistic child, consider enrolling now before they are sick, so you have a test kit if prescribed an antibiotic over the next two years.  You would send microbiome samples pre and post the antibiotic.  Those are to be evaluated for changes to behavior and the microbiome — the bacteria, yeasts and fungi that also inhabit the gut, as well as examining metabolites (small chemical molecules) found in the GI tract. The study is free to participants and fully paid for by N of One: Autism Research Foundation which is founded by John Rodakis, the father of an autistic son who experienced symptom improvement due to an antibiotic dose Thanksgiving 2012.  Participate if you can to increase understanding of Antibiotics, Autism Symptoms which at present, has a gap in the published autism research. This initial data may more effectively sub-type autism and develop and deliver more effective microbial-based interventions.

Lots of children have autism.

Data from 2014, and confirmed in 2016, show 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls have autism.   This is often put as one in 68 children have autism.  The prevalence chart below shows the alarming autism increase since 2000.  Also startling, 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.  See CDC Autism State Report, 2014 and CNN Report, Autism rates now 1 in 68 U.S. children: CDC.

Autistic children’s microbiome metabolites (the exhaust of the gut microbiota) differs compared to children without autism.

Several studies have reported significantly higher oral antibiotic use in children with autism versus typical children (6, 1417).  Antibiotics cause collateral damage to the microbiome.  From the 2016 review, The effects of antibiotics on the microbiome throughout development and alternative approaches for therapeutic modulation:  The use of antibiotics heavily disrupts the ecology of the human microbiome (i.e., the collection of cells, genes, and metabolites from the bacteria, eukaryotes, and viruses that inhabit the human body).  A dysbiotic microbiome may not perform vital functions such as nutrient supply, vitamin production, and protection from pathogens [3].  Dysbiosis of the microbiome has been associated with a large number of health problems and causally implicated in metabolic, immunological, and developmental disorders, as well as susceptibility to development of infectious diseases [411].

Diet and antibiotics have a huge impact on the microbial community residing in the gut and thus on the microbiome metabolites.

This Antibiotic, Autism Symptom 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.  In this YouTube, both Dae Wook KangArizona State University and Lita Proctor, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, discuss the potential role of gut microbes, diet, and autism.  Dae Wook Kang’s work provides more evidence that bacteria in the gut is linked to autism.  

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. We want to see how metabolites change with altered diet…  Warranted for future study:  Microbiome makes metabolites that may change human  behavior.   

Proctor says, We are redefining what a pathogen is (disease causing bacterium)… we need to add the microbiome imbalance causes pathogenic behavior (disease causing).”

Now back to this Antibiotics, Autism Symptom Study Details

“We’re interested in tracking changes in children with autism while on antibiotics, looking specifically at the microbiome and metabolome and changes in behavior,” said Dr. Ruth Ann Luna, assistant professor of pathology & immunology at Baylor and director of medical metagenomics at the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Research suggests that antibiotic use can have a measurable effect on behavior in some children, which is supported by anecdotal evidence from parents of children with autism who have noticed either improvements or worsening of symptoms while their child was on various antibiotics. Both of these scenarios support the same hypothesis – changes in the gut microbiome related to antibiotic use elicit changes in autism-related behaviors,”Study to investigate connection between antibiotic use and autism symptoms

  • The study does NOT prescribe antibiotics.  You must first enroll your child in the study, and then you will be sent a collection kit.
  • Eligible participants include children 2-17 years of age with a diagnosis of ASD as well as children without a diagnosis of ASD.  The trial is open to children nationwide.  If you have a child with autism that has experienced changes in symptoms with antibiotics, or a child on the spectrum that has not received antibiotics before, please enroll them.  Your child could be the one that provides the information that we need to make a significant breakthrough.
  • The study will follow children over a two-year period and capture information anytime antibiotics are prescribed by their regular physicians and compare changes in the gut microbiome (bacteria, yeasts and fungi found in the gut) and metabolome (small biological molecules produced by the microbes) during antibiotic use of those who experience a change in symptoms during to those who do not.  The study seeks to understand when and why these changes occur and how this information can be harnessed for future interventions.
  • Participation is easy.  If at any time during the next two years, your child is prescribed antibiotics by their doctor for any reason, you will collect a specimen before and after to be analyzed.  This is why it is absolutely essential that you sign-up and register in advance, before you need antibiotics. The winter sick season is around the corner, if you wait until they are sick, it will be too late.
  • The study is free to participants and fully paid for by N of One: Autism Research Foundation.

For more information visit the study website, Autism Spectrum Disorder Study (H-39137).  To enroll, please contact Dr. Ruth Ann Luna at or call (832) 824-1894.

Press Releases About the Study:
N of One’s Release
Baylor’s Release

This study will span 2 years and is 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.  

Baylor College of Medicine is no new comer to autism and microbiome research, but this Antibiotic Autism Symptom study is the first collaboration with N of One: Autism Research Foundation.  

In my Dec. 2014 post, Autism Microbiome Study: 2 Studies Seek Participants, I reported on Dr. James Versalovic and his Baylor College of Medicine team seeking the cohort for a study (see here) evaluating changes in the microbiome that relate to autism symptoms and GI problems (known to be high in autism).  As well, they looked for signs of metabolic disturbances in the children participating in the study.

The study was to enroll 375 children, ages 4 through 12, at 3 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 were to 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.

The connection for autism between antibiotics, microbiome, and GI tract problems:

Kang’s work discussed in the above YouTube finding differing autism metabolite information was published in the 2015 study, Gut Bacteria in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Challenges and Promise of Studying how a Complex Community Influences a Complex Disease. The connection between antibiotics, microbiome, and GI tract problems was summarized:  “Several studies have reported significantly higher oral antibiotic use in children with autism versus typical children (6, 1417)…  Commonly used oral antibiotics alter the normal gut microbiota (18), which play an important role in metabolizing plant polysaccharides, promoting GI motility, maintaining water balance, producing some vitamins, and competing against pathogenic bacteria. Loss of normal gut flora can result in the overgrowth of pathogenic flora, which can in turn cause constipation and other problems...  A high rate of GI problems in children with ASD, correlations between symptom severity and GI symptoms within children with ASD, distinctive profiles of gut microbes and their metabolites in children with ASD, and a growing appreciation of a link between the gut and the brain for many neurological disorders, all point towards the potential for a role for gut microbiota in the presentation and severity of ASD symptoms.”

Actually, the microbiome research is showing that for many, not all of the microbiome nuked by the antibiotic recovers. This study found the microbiome severely affected by most antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, amoxicillin, minocycline) for months and health-associated butyrate-producing species became strongly underrepresented. Additionally, there was an enrichment of genes associated with antibiotic resistance. Clearly, even a single antibiotic treatment in healthy individuals contributes to the risk of resistance development and leads to long-lasting detrimental shifts in the gut microbiome.  

If you have a child with autism that has experienced changes in symptoms with antibiotics, or a child on the spectrum that has not received antibiotics before, please enroll them.  Your child could be the one that provides the information that we need to make a significant breakthrough. 

Please share this information on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… so that others can participate.  

Best in health through awareness,



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