And now, a new study has shown that fecal transplants can help improve behavior in children with autism.
Scientists and researchers have long noted that autism and gastrointestinal disorders occur in tandem, so they decided to explore the link further.
Previous research has shown that children with autism do not have diverse microbes in their guts.
It is possible this is because they have been overprescribed antibiotics in the early years of their lives to help relieve some of their GI issues.
For this small study at Arizona State University in conjunction with Ohio State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Minnesota, 18 children with autism and moderate to severe gastrointestinal issues participated.
The children were given antibiotics to clear out the flora in their intestines.
Then, they were given liquids with contained gut microbiota from fecal donors.
The liquids contained 99% bacteria to help repopulate their gastrointestinal tract.
Researchers found that the children’s gastro symptoms improved by a whopping 80%, while their behavior improved by 25%.
Although the number is smaller than the GI improvement, it still shows that behavior can be affected by healthy gut microbiota.
The research took place over eight weeks.
In addition to improved behavior and GI symptoms, the children’s developmental age went up by an average of 1.4 years, which is astounding.
Researchers will be continuing the experiment to a Phase II to understand whether or not the small study is swayed by a placebo effect since all of the children and their parents knew they were participating in the study.
They also anticipate there will be a Phase III in the future to further help determine how this research can actually be implemented into the lives of those with autism.
The next couple of phases of the trial will also focus on how the change in gut microbiota actually works to help ease symptoms, as doctors do not currently understand why it is effective, they simply know it is.
They also caution parents not to try a similar experiment at home.
This kind of treatment can only be done under careful medical supervision with screened fecal samples.