A study released last week from the Arizona State University revealed the two-year follow up results of an Autism FMT trial. The studies initial results published in 2017 reported improvement in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder after about two months of FMT treatments, which were delivered orally.
In the recent two-year follow up researchers continued to see improvements in the children’s Autism symptoms. They also noted maintained compositional differences in their gut microbiomes.
The studies authors note that nearly half a million children with ASD in the US will become adults in the next decade, a number, which they claim, the country is unprepared for. So could this study lead to much needed therapies for those living with Autism? We discuss below.
- How FMT was used to treat Autism
- Continued progress at two year follow up
- The future of Autism therapy
- More on the microbiome, FMT and Autism
The study showed incredibly promising results for FMT for Autism. How exactly did the treatment work?
How FMT was used to treat Autism
A growing number have studies have reported distinctive gut microbiomes in children with ASD compared to their neurotypical counterparts. Many current treatments for Autism focus on treating the disorder through behavioural therapies. FMT re-focuses Autism treatment to the gut, which in recent years has been increasingly linked to the behavioural symptoms of Autism.
Researchers do not seem to be focusing on FMT and other microbiome altering treatments as cures for ASD but rather as therapeutic treatments, to reduce the severity of certain symptoms. And in this arena fecal transplants have proved highly effective.
The study used a treatment protocol developed by Dr Thomas Borody out of the Center for Digestive Diseases in Australia. The protocol consists of two weeks of vancomycin (an antibiotic), followed by a bowel cleanse and then a high dose of FMT for 1-2 days. That is topped off by 7-8 weeks of daily maintenance doses delivered alongside stomach acid suppressants. All treatments are delivered orally.
Continued progress at two year follow up
In the initial report researchers found improvements in both GI and behavioural symptoms of Autism after the course of FMT’s given in 2017. After the two year follow up the researchers found that participants had maintained improvements in GI symptoms and the behavioural symptoms improved even more in the two years following the treatment.
Upon further examination it was also found that the microbial composition changes present more immediately following the treatment were still present at two years out as well. Significant increases of Bifidobacteria and Prevotella and bacterial diversity as a whole.
The future of Autism therapy
Though the studies results are incredibly promising, it must be noted that the sample size of the study was quite small. The participants were also children with coinciding GI issues, which accounts for 30-50% (according to some reports) of those living with ASD. It is unclear whether the treatment would be just as effective in those without the GI issues.
So the question remains how much of the gut microbiome is responsible for Autism’s symptoms. And how effective can treating the microbiome be.
The studies authors are now shifting their focus to adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder to see if FMT might be an effective therapy for those with a longer history of Autism. More studies with larger, more varied sample groups will be needed to decipher how the effective fecal transplants can truly be for Autism.
More on the microbiome, FMT and Autism
Get more in depth knowledge on Autism and FMTs. Including how Autism is influenced by the microbiome and why GI issues are so common among those with ASD.
Want to know more about how the gut and the brain talk to each other? Check out this easy to follow guide on the gut-brain axis.
Learn more about fecal transplants, how they work and other conditions they can treat.