The first-ever vaccine for gastrointestinal disorders common in 90 percent of autistic children has the potential to one day alleviate additional autism symptoms.
Cases of autism have increased almost sixfold over the past 20 years, and scientists don’t know why. Although many experts point to environmental factors, others have focused on the human gut.
University of Guelph researchers developed a carbohydrate-based vaccine against the gut bug, Clostridium bolteae, which shows up in higher numbers in the GI tracts of autistic children than in those of healthy kids.
More than 90 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders suffer from chronic, severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Of those, about 75 percent suffer from diarrhea, according to current literature.
“Little is known about the factors that predispose autistic children to C. bolteae,” said Monteiro. Although most infections are handled by some antibiotics, he said, a vaccine would improve current treatment.
Some researchers believe toxins and/or metabolites produced by gut bacteria, including C. bolteae, may be associated with symptoms and severity of autism, especially regressive autism.
The vaccine effectively raised C. bolteae-specific antibodies in rabbits. Doctors could also use the vaccine-induced antibodies to quickly detect the bug in a clinical setting, said Monteiro.
The vaccine might take more than 10 years to work through preclinical and human trials, and it may take even longer before a drug is ready for market, Monteiro said.
“But this is a significant first step in the design of a multivalent vaccine against several autism-related gut bacteria,” he said.
The groundbreaking study by Brittany Pequegnat and Guelph chemistry professor Mario Monteiro appears this month in the journal Vaccine
(Source: Univ. of Guelph News)