Study Explores Drug's Effect On Stomach Problems With Autism

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Ohio State University Medical Center is one of 12 sites nationally studying an investigational medication for treating children with autism and gastrointestinal problems.

Up to 40 percent of children with autism experience gastrointestinal problems, including stomach ache, constipation, chronic diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, gaseousness, bloating and reflux.

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The medication is an oral dose of human immunoglobulin, which contains antibodies to antigens that are thought to overstimulate the immune system and activate an autoimmune response. Some experts believe that the gastrointestinal problems and immune reactions may even be a cause or aggravator of autistic symptoms in some children.

"We are not sure why so many kids with autism tend to have these problems, but we do know that digestive problems add to the stress these children and their families already experience in dealing with the autistic disorder," said Dr. Michael Aman, principal investigator of the study at OSU and leader of the Research Unit on Pediatric Psychopharmacology in the College of Medicine and Public Health's Nisonger Center.

The study is designed to determine whether the medication improves gastrointestinal function and assess any related effects on emotions and behavior. In hopes that relieving the gastrointestinal problems might also help the autism, measures of autistic symptoms are included in the study. Autism is a developmental disorder associated with difficulty in social relations and communication, and repetitive behavior.

The researchers are seeking participants for the study. Those eligible are boys or girls age 2 to 17 who have autistic disorder and who have a history of persistent gastrointestinal disturbance. For more information about the study, call 614-688-8214. COLUMBUS, Ohio

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