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The "Bacterial Theory" of Autism

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  • The "Bacterial Theory" of Autism

    Hi everyone,

    We get asked a lot of questions about alternative therapies and theories on Tourette Syndrome and associated disorders.
    While we cannot endorse any of these alternatives without a solid research base that is acknowledged and supported by our Professional Advisory Board, we can can provide you with information. This post is a collection of links that surround a film that was on the CBC's "The Nature of Things" called the Autism Enigma. The summary of the film is as follows:

    A fresh perspective on autism research with the developing "Bacterial Theory" of autism. The fastest-growing developmental disorder in the industrialized world, autism has increased an astounding 600 per cent over the last 20 years. Science cannot say why. Some say it's triggered by environmental factors and point to another intriguing statistic: 70 per cent of kids with autism also have severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Could autism actually begin in the gut? The Autism Enigma looks at the progress of an international group of scientists who are studying the gut's amazingly diverse and powerful microbial ecosystem for clues to the baffling disorder.

    From the related resources on the CBC site:


    Abstract of paper on vancomycin study by Ellen Bolte, Dr. Finegold, and others
    Abstract of paper by Jeremy Nicholson and others, examining metabolic phenotyping of autistic children and their siblings
    Abstract of paper by Ellen Bolte, Dr. Finegold, and others examining clostridia populations in children with autism

    Additional Resources

    Autism Canada Foundation
    Simons Foundation Autism Research
    Autism Genome Project
    Dr Sidney Finegold
    Dr Derrick MacFabe
    Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe

    From the filmmaker's site:

    The core difficulty in tackling this issue lies in its name: “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. A spectrum, Autism covers a vast territory. For people who live with it, autism can range from a treasured heightened awareness, to a life of considerable struggle, and everything in between. What’s more, the science is just as broad; its enormous complexity is worthy of a weekly program, rather than a single one-hour show, and information changes almost daily. But more than the challenge of the content, there was the emotion of the thing. The families of those with autism struggle to understand the whys and hows, often passionately embracing theories that explain their own circumstances. And those theories are legion.

    After all, haven’t we always known that we are what we eat? That we have to listen to our gut? All those old adages are actually somewhat revolutionary, reminding us that there is and always has been a gut-brain connection. GI symptoms are so common in autism, but it’s traditionally been the behaviours of autism that medicine has focused on. But lately, publications are exploding with links between gut bacteria unbalance and all sorts of problems: inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, obesity, and neuropsychiatric disorders like depression, schizophrenia, and now autism. Our “world within” is offering some incredible insights into causation and even, dare I say it, hope.

    That was the thorny part: the hope lying just below the surface of this and other research that implies viable treatment. Earlier ideas that autism is a static brain disorder, that it is unavoidable and untreatable, are changing. With so many families waiting for a breakthrough, hope is nourishment to go another day, but it’s always exercised with caution, and our film couldn’t suggest that a cure was right around the corner.
    Tina, Forum Moderator, TSFC Staff Liaison

    TSFC Homepage
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  • #2
    Re: The "Bacterial Theory" of Autism

    I'm reminded of research into the etiology of schizophrenia in the 60s and 70s, which in effect was a record of a lot of interesting but ultimately incorrect blind alley hypotheses attempting to untangle the web of genetic-environmental interactions in the development of the disease from birth to first episode psychosis.

    I'm also following these investigative efforts into autism spectrum disorders with interest, especially several that are looking at prenatal environmental causes. They're all quite fascinating. I know that most will not pan out, similar to the old schizophrenia research, but they will eventually lead us into refining the search for causes and provide more fruitful leads.