HealthDay News — A new approach to alter the gut microbiome and virome may be an effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research published in Microbiome.

The researchers studied the impact of microbiota transfer therapy on gut microbiota composition and gastrointestinal and ASD symptoms of 18 ASD-diagnosed children. The program consisted of 2 weeks of antibiotic treatment, a bowel cleanse, and then an extended fecal microbiota transplant using a high initial dose followed by daily and lower maintenance doses for 7 to 8 weeks.

After the procedure, the children experienced a 25 percent reduction in symptoms related to language, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors, study author James Adams, PhD, a professor and autism researcher at Arizona State University in Tempe, told HealthDay. The children also became less hyperactive, irritable, and lethargic. Five weeks into the study, the children had experienced an average 80 percent reduction in the gastrointestinal symptoms most had experienced for years.

“This exploratory, extended-duration treatment protocol thus appears to be a promising approach to alter the gut microbiome and virome and improve gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms of ASD,” the authors write. “Improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms, ASD symptoms, and the microbiome all persisted for at least eight weeks after treatment ended, suggesting a long-term impact.”

Several authors disclosed patents related to the use of fecal microbiota transplant and/or probiotics for various conditions, including autism.

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Kang DW, Adams JB, Gregory AC3, Borody T, et al. Microbiota Transfer Therapy alters gut ecosystem and improves gastrointestinal and autism symptoms: an open-label study [published online January 23, 2017.]. Microbiome. doi: 10.1186/s40168-016-0225-7 [Epub ahead of print].