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Scientists Develop First Vaccine for Autism Symptoms

Gut bacteria targeted (Apr. 24)

A vaccine created by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, for gut bacteria common in autistic children may also help control some autism symptoms, according to a new study published in Vaccine.

The researchers developed a carbohydrate-based vaccine against Clostridium bolteae, which is known to play a role in gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The bug often shows up in higher numbers in the GI tracts of autistic children than in those of healthy kids.

More than 90% of children with autism spectrum disorders have chronic, severe GI symptoms. Of those children, about 75% have diarrhea, according to current literature.

“Little is known about the factors that predispose autistic children to C. bolteae,” said co-author Professor Mario Monteiro. Although most infections are handled by some antibiotics, he said, a vaccine would improve current treatment.

“This is the first vaccine designed to control constipation and diarrhea caused by C. bolteae and perhaps control autism-related symptoms associated with this microbe,” he said.

Autism cases have increased almost six-fold during the past 20 years, and scientists don’t know why. Although many experts point to environmental factors, others have focused on the human gut. Some researchers believe toxins and/or metabolites produced by gut bacteria, including C. bolteae, may be associated with the symptoms and severity of autism, especially regressive autism.

The new vaccine targets complex polysaccharides, or carbohydrates, on the surface of C. bolteae bacteria.

According to Monteiro, the vaccine might take more than 10 years to work its way through preclinical and human trials, and it may take even longer before a drug is ready for market.

Sources: University of Guelph; April 24, 2013; and Vaccine, April 18, 2013.

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