A parent has been prompted to investigate the connections between gut bacteria and autism following surprising improvements in his son's autism while taking an antibiotic for strep throat.
John Rodakis' son was prescribed a 10-day course of amoxicillin, one of the most frequently used antibiotics in the US, and within just 4 days of commencing the treatment, changes were observed in his autism symptoms.
"[He] began making eye contact, which he had previously avoided; his speech, which was severely delayed, began to improve markedly; he became less 'rigid' in his insistence for sameness and routine; and he also displayed an uncharacteristic level of energy, which he had historically lacked," explains Rodakis.
In an article published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, Rodakis describes this unexpected turn of events and the journey of discovery he has since embarked upon, as he attempts to understand what caused his son's symptoms to change.
It became apparent to him early in his investigation that many other parents had experienced similar changes following courses of antibiotics, with some even routinely giving their autistic children antibiotics in order to improve their symptoms.
As well as these positive experiences, Rodakis also notes that some parents found their children's symptoms worsened under the influence of the medicine. "In my view, these stories are not contradictory but rather reinforce the notion that an antibiotic can create an effect in autism," writes Rodakis.
Rodakis' investigation brought him into contact with Dr. Richard Frye, head of the Autism Research Program at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute. Together, in collaboration with other researchers from across the world, they decided a research trial was required, and a scientific conference was warranted.
The First International Symposium on the Microbiome in Health and Disease with a Special Focus on Autism was held in June and it has led to a special edition of Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease being published, focusing on autism and the microbiome.
In recent years, evidence associating the microbiome - the collection of micro-organisms living on and in the human body - with autism has grown sharply.
Ellen Bolte, another parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder, had a hypothesis in 1999 that some cases of autism were affected by gut bacteria. From this hypothesis, a small clinical trial was conducted and since then, a significant body of research has been compiled.