Researchers questioned whether or not a daily dose of friendly bacteria known as probiotics might help treat autism. Clinical trials are being scheduled to test probiotics to determine if they could ease the gut problems associated with autism and possibly help with some of the psychological symptoms as well.
Nearly six out of every 1,000 people have autism, a condition that negatively affects communication and social relationships.
Some of the physical symptoms associated with autism include bloating, stomachaches and diarrhea. Since children with autism were more prone to having higher levels of Clostridia, a group of "bad" bacteria, probiotic food supplements might lower the levels of these bad bacteria and alleviate some of the autism symptoms.
Researchers haven't been able to find out what the cause of autism is, however genetic and environmental factors have been cited as likely contributors to the complex disorder.
Researchers agreed that toxic byproducts of the bacteria might play a role with the disease because of how they are absorbed into the blood and travel to the brain.
One type of bacteria researchers have found to produce promising results is called Lactobacillus plantarum 229v, which attaches itself to the lining of the gut and stimulates its growth. In addition to these functions, this bacteria has also been discovered to lower gut pH, which aids in the digestive process and helps fight infections.
Research has also revealed that friendly bacteria might be useful in treating irritable bowel disorder, diarrhea, colitis and bowel cancer. Experts have noticed an increasing acceptance of probiotics as a way to help manage health conditions.
Nature May 5, 2004