Controlling diarrhoea and constipation in autistic children without using antibiotics

Scientists checking bacteria which live in the intestines of autistic children may have found a way to control gut problems, such as diarrhoea or constipation, without using antibiotics, according to work presented today at the Society for General Microbiology’s 155th Meeting at Trinity College Dublin.

“We have found larger amounts of clostridia bacteria in the gut contents of autistic children compared with healthy children,” says Helena Parracho of the School of Food Biosciences at the University of Reading. “These organisms can contribute to upset gastrointestinal tracts, but also have wider effects, since some of these bacteria’s own waste products are toxic and can interfere with systems throughout our bodies.”

The scientists are testing lactic acid bacteria to look for varieties which could slow down or stop the growth of the toxic clostridia bacteria. Six of ten Lactobacillus strains and one of four Bifidobacterium strains tested inhibited the growth of Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile in laboratory experiments.

“If we can use friendly bacteria as a first weapon to fight the initial gut symptoms, in a treatment called lactic acid bacteria therapy, we may be able to reduce bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation in these children,” says Helena Parracho. “By using dietary rather than pharmaceutical interventions we may be able to stabilise the metabolism of the children, allowing them to receive more effective treatment for their gastrointestinal problems.”

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