Could Fecal Transplants Treat Autism?

It is not something that you probably want to talk about but fecal transplants are really making a name for themselves. As we learn more about microbiome (in the body and of this planet), we continue to better understand the beneficial roles of bacteria in our health. Already, for example, we know that fecal transplants from a healthy biome to a person with gastrointestinal diseases can help to balance the gut and improve health.

But a new study actually suggests that children with autism may also benefit from a fecal transplant.
This is actually not that far-fetched. Studies also show that the behavioral symptoms of autism and gastrointestinal distress appear to be related as they almost always often appear together. Furthermore, this new—but very small study—showed that children with the behavioral symptoms of autism seem to do better after a fecal transplant and its followup treatments.
Indeed, the small study only observed 18 children with autism and moderate-to-severe gastrointestinal issues. But all parents and doctors reports positive behavioral changes lasting eight weeks after the transplant.

According to lead stuy co-author Ann Gregory, “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.”

The Ohio State University microbiology graduate student goes on to say, “Following treatment, we found a positive change in GI symptoms and neurological symptoms, overall.”

More specifically, it should be noted that existing research suggests that children with autism typically have lower diversity of the important gut bacteria; and this study supported that, too. But the reason for this is uncertain: it might be that when young children are diagnosed with autism they are abundantly prescribed antibiotics so the body just makes fewer of them over time.

Similarly, Northern Arizona University’s director of the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute Greg Caporaso comments, “In this study, we confirmed the previously reported differences between the gut microbiome of children with autism and neurotypical children. Additionally, we were able to prove not only that fecal microbiota transplant changes the microbiome in a way that reduces those differences, but that these changes were associated with improvement in gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms of autism.”

The results of this study appear in the scientific journal Microbiome.