redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
A vaccine created to treat a gut bacteria common in children with autism could also help control some symptoms of the neural development disorder, according to new research published in this month´s edition of the journal Vaccine.
Researchers Brittany Pequegnat and Mario Monteiro of the University of Guelph in Ontario reportedly developed a carbohydrate-based vaccine against the bacteria Clostridium bolteae, which has been linked to gastrointestinal disorders and is often present in greater numbers in autistic children than in healthy kids.
“Little is known about the factors that predispose autistic children to C. bolteae,” Monteiro said, adding that most of the infections can be managed by antibiotics but that a vaccine would improve current treatment quality. “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.”
According to the researchers, more than 90 percent of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) suffer from chronic severe gastrointestinal symptoms, and three-fourths of those have diarrhea. Cases of autism have increased more than fivefold over the past two decades, and while the exact reason is unclear, some researchers believe the answer could lie in gut bacteria such as C. bolteae.
Using bacteria grown in the laboratory, Guelph microbiology professor Emma Allen-Vercoe, Pequegnat and Monteiro developed a new vaccine that targets specific complex carbohydrates known as polysaccharide on the surface of C. bolteae.
Their vaccine effectively increased C. bolteae-specific antibodies in rabbits, and the researchers believed that vaccine-induced antibodies could also be used to quickly detect the pathogen. While it could take more than a decade for the vaccine to complete preclinical and human trials, and even longer to reach the market, Monteiro called it “a significant first step in the design of a multivalent vaccine against several autism-related gut bacteria.”
In related research conducted earlier this month, investigators from the University of Missouri discovered that kids and teenagers with ASD were more likely to use television and video games and less likely to spend time on social media than their normally-developing counterparts — and that their love of screen time could actually be used to help scientists and medical experts help develop new treatment options.
“Using screen-based technologies, communication and social skills could be taught and reinforced right away,” explained Micah Mazurek, an assistant professor of health psychology and a clinical child psychologist. “However, more research is needed to determine whether the skills children with ASD might learn in virtual reality environments would translate into actual social interactions.”