Researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago have shown that some children suffering from autism may experience short-term but dramatic improvement during treatment with appropriate antibiotics. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Child Neurology. The researchers report that when a subset of patients whose autism may involve colonization of the bowel by certain bacteria that produce a toxin were treated with antimicrobial agents, most experienced short-term improvement of their autism symptoms.
The journal article is authored by Dr. Richard Sandler, director of pediatric gastroenterology at Rush Children's Hospital, part of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. Other key contributors are Dr. Sydney Finegold, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School and Ellen Bolte, mother of a child with autism. The Veteran's Administration Medical Center in West Los Angeles also contributed to the study. Autism typically occurs before two years of age and involves loss of language, social and play skills. According to a study just completed by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that autistic spectrum disorder affects an estimated 1 in 150 children.
"Autism is a devastating disorder with essentially no meaningful treatment," said Dr. Sandler, the paper's lead author. "Seeing most of these children apparently improve significantly was very exciting." However, Dr. Sandler cautioned that "the work needs to be repeated by others, although it presents intriguing evidence suggesting a fruitful line of research towards a possibly effective prevention or treatment strategy in a subset of autistic children." Sandler suggested that "the next step, besides repeating clinical studies, is to go to the lab and try and find out why these effects may have been observed."