Autism is a severe developmental disability that affects children, their parents and families, as well as the community as a whole. At present the causal mechanisms of autistic behaviours are still unclear but there is general agreement amongst health professionals involved in helping families and children that this disability has its basis in some type or types of functional abnormality of metabolism. It is both natural and understandable that parents, families and concerned health practitioners wish to maximise children’s health and much research is currently being targeted at autism and related developmental disorders. The Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic, in conjunction with Bioscreen has shown its commitment to ADHD and children with autism by helping to unravel the science surrounding biochemical changes found in these children. This has been done by presenting research and disseminating information at conferences such as: The 2nd International Mind of a Child conference in Sydney, Autism Victoria Annual conference in Melbourne and many others throughout Australia bringing together leading researchers and clinicians.
Children with autism usually have several bodily changes, in addition to behavioural difficulties, associated with their condition. There are changes in the gastrointestinal tract and some amino acids, the building blocks of protein needed by the body, are seen to be low or deficient. Inflammation of the intestinal lining, and evidence of more permeable gut are seen in studies of autistic children and confirmed by clinical practitioners in their daily work. Some autistic symptoms have been linked to changes in gut bacteria following treatment with antibiotics.
The clinic staff in conjunction with Bioscreen Medical Laboratory at Melbourne University has been investigating gastrointestinal and bodily changes seen in abnormal faecal and urinary amino acid tests of autistic children. The results of these tests and investigations are helping health practitioners to formulate treatments for children with autism, which have resulted in significant improvements if not normalisation in gut function and amelioration of Autistic symptoms.
Bioscreen Study: Intestinal Bacteria in Children with Autism
Urinary amino acid test and Bioscreen faecal microbiology test was performed on 86 children with autism. Results indicated a marked change in both the amino acids metabolism and the normal intestinal bacteria usually found in the large intestine of healthy individual.
A healthy gastrointestinal tract is one that has a particular set of bacteria living within it. Normally it is difficult to change the number and type of these healthy bacteria and they are remarkably stable over many different populations around the world, even though we live in different environments and eat different diets. It is becoming widely recognised that alterations in these bacteria can influence our health. This is because bacteria in our digestive tract produce many types of vitamins and nutrients/chemicals that help our bodies to remain healthy. On the other hand it is possible that if these bacteria are not normally distributed, chemicals that are not helpful to maintaining our health might be produced in larger amounts and have a detrimental influence on us. That is why so many bacterial supplements are now available, like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium, in order to try and keep our intestinal tract healthy when under stress or suffering from particular illnesses.
Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria
There are two main classes of bacteria in our large intestines: aerobic bacteria, which need some oxygen to survive, and anaerobic bacteria, which will die in the presence of oxygen. The most common aerobic bacteria, or aerobe, found in healthy individuals is Escherichia coli ( E.coli) and it accounts for around 80-90% of all the aerobic bacteria. The second most common aerobe is Enterococcus, although it is a lot less common than E.coli at an average of 5% in the Gut. In Bioscreen’s study of autism the average amount of E.coli was found to be quite low at approx. 56% compared to the normal 90-95%. In about 22% of the children the amount of E.coli was actually less than 10% which is quite an incredible finding if you are a microbiology scientist.
There were also abnormal elevations in the amount of Enterococcus found in the faeces. This was found to be as high as 40% in children with autism compared to the average of 5% in normal, healthy individuals. In approx. 19% of the children the Enterococcus had almost completely swapped places with E.coli, being present at more than 95% of the aerobic bacteria.
Changes to the anaerobes, or bacteria that don’t like oxygen, were evident. Normally, Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria are the most abundant anaerobic bacteria in our large bowel. What the study found was a significant decrease in Bacteroides, and an increase in the number of Bifidobacteria in the children’s intestines compared to healthy control subjects
What does this mean for the treatment of children with autism?
Health practitioners can utilise the Pathlab amino acid Urine test and the Bioscreen faecal tests to help identify alterations in microbiology and digestive capacity. The nature of tests results from Bioscreen can provide avenues for the identification of treatment protocols that may involve; (a) normalisation of the gastrointestinal bacteria through use of specific antibiotics, replacement bacteria and nutritional supplementation (e.g. very specific probiotics and prebiotics); (b) supplementation with individualised amino-acid supplements based on deficiencies of amino acids found in the urine test and; (c) supplementation with digestive enzymes, electrolytes, and essential elements to help impaired digestion and metabolism.
Tests repeated over time can build a picture of changes that might occur with treatment and whether any significant improvements are seen in the bodily state. Doctors involved in the management of children with autism utilising the testing expertise of Bioscreen for clinical treatments are reporting positive gains in both behavioural and other symptom complaints.
Bioscreen faecal analysis
Faecal analysis through Bioscreen is available from some health professionals with training in Nutritional and Environmental Medicine and through the Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic.