Monday, October 02, 2006

Hope for Autistic Children?

While not enough research has been done for any conclusions to be drawn, a recent study on autistic children shows promise. Autistic children had previously been found to have very high levels of the "bad" bacteria, clostridia, in their intestines. When given a specially designed probiotic meant to decrease the levels of clostridia and increase the levels of "good" bacteria in their systems, their autistic symptoms decreased.

In this study conducted by Professor Glen Gibson of Reading University, parents noticed such obvious improvements in their autistic children's behavior and concentration that they knew their children were not on a placebo. When their children were due to be switched to the placebo for the remainder of the blind study, they refused to cooperate, causing the clinical trials to be incomplete.

While I would not present this as a magic bullet to a parent of an autistic child, I've never heard of probiotic supplements hurting anyone. It might not be a bad thing to try. They can be found at health food and vitamin stores. Having no idea what blend was used for the trial or at what dosages, I would probably pick up a formulation containing a variety instead of only Lactobacillus Acidophilus. (Of course, check with a doctor since I am not qualified to give medical advice.)

Actually, if I were the parent of an autistic child, I would track down Professor Gibson and his original study. If anyone finds out more about this issue, please let me know.


At 10/02/2006 8:49 PM, Anonymous Carole in DE said...

A close friend watched her young son be seized by Epilepsy, while medicine after medicine did nothing to eliminate or even reduce his seizures. In desperation she turned to the ketogenic diet and we watched this child's seizures disappear.
It was wonderful to witness.

I really wish the medical community would explore issues such as this one and the one you posted about. Of course, it means less money for the drug industry....

At 10/03/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger Duffy said...

I don't know that a probiotic is going to be a magic bullet either but it's likely I'll check it out and maybe even try it for my son. We've been down the magic bullet path before with leaky gut, cassein free diets and flirted with chelation (never tried it as there is some risk involved).

I don't think autism has single cause or single cure. It's possible the children were responding to the interaction with the doctors as much as the probiotic

At 10/04/2006 7:39 AM, Blogger Duffy said...

Ok, something else was bothering me about this one and it was only later I figured out what it is. The study was not double blind. It wasn't even single blind. The results would never have passed peer review or any sort of verification. In order to properly track results of a medical study both the administrators and the subjects must not know who is getting a placebo and who is getting the real medicine. Otherwise the study is worthless. Like this one is.

At 10/04/2006 8:25 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

I was wondering about that myself. I couldn't tell if it was set up as a blind study or not. My impression from the article was that the parents did not know what their child was taking but that the difference was pronounced enough that they knew it was not the placebo. I wondered if the researcher was aware which children were being treated with placebo and which weren't.

At 10/05/2006 3:39 AM, Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

dietary answers seem too easy but that is the direction that I took with my young dog when I discovered that he was subject to Epileptic seizure
Diet has kept him seizure free for close to a year now.
(he also may have grown out of the condition)

At 10/05/2006 1:34 PM, Blogger Duffy said...

Nancy, not to put too fine a point on it but people are not dogs and epilepsy is not autism.

Autism is so wide and varied it nearly defies classification. Most autistic people are classified as PDD-NOS by DSM-IV. That is, Pervasive Developmental Delay - Not Otherwise Specified. It's essentially a catchall definition for people who exhibit developmental delays but cannot be reasonably classfied as having Down's, Asperger's or what have you.

I hadn't considered that the effects of the treatment might be so noticable that they would be able to tell who had the real medicine and who had the placebo. However, I think in most studies the control group remains a control and does not ever take the placebo. That is, you are either in one group or the other and do not switch.

The reporting leaves so much out its hard to draw any meaningful conclusions. However, if the results were as remarkable as indicated we should see a proper study shortly.

At 10/05/2006 6:27 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

The reporting leaves so much out its hard to draw any meaningful conclusions. However, if the results were as remarkable as indicated we should see a proper study shortly.

Agreed. I enjoy learning about new studies, but they aggravate me bec so much is left out. I want to know how the study was set up and all the particulars, but they are rarely forthcoming. Did you read the article I linked to? I thought that it was a blind study. However, I cannot be sure and that's why I mentioned that anyone with further interest should follow the trail to the journal write-up or contact the professor himself. If there is anything to this, I too would expect more studies in the future.


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