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Worms and hot baths: Novel approaches to treating autism
Date:12/12/2013

Hollywood, FL (December 12, 2013) A new study shows that two unusual treatment approaches may have beneficial effects on the symptoms of autism in children and adults with the disorder. Using a hot bath to raise body temperature and thereby mimic the effects of infection, or using worm eggs to stimulate the production of immunoregulatory factors in the gut to diminish inflammatory signals, both attenuated symptoms of autism. These findings support the idea that disruption of systems in the body that control inflammation may contribute to the disorder. The study was presented today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting.

Approximately 1 in 88 children are afflicted with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A prevailing hypothesis of ASD is that a hyperactive immune system, resulting in elevated levels of inflammation, may contribute to the disorder. Consistent with this possibility, it is known that approximately one third of those with ASD show a clinical improvement in symptoms in response to a fever.

In a new study led by Eric Hollander MD, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the effects of two novel treatment approaches that modify aspects of inflammation were tested on ASD symptoms.

First, as fever may trigger the release of protective anti-inflammatory signals in the body, the effects of raising body temperature to mimic fever on ASD symptoms were assessed. It was found that children with ASD and a history of positive behavioral response to fever had improved social behaviors when bathed each day in a hot tub at 102oF compared with water at 98 oF.

Second, using a more unusual approach, adults with ASD were treated for 12 weeks with Trichuris suis ova (TSO), which are the eggs of the worm helminth trichura (whip worm). This worm is safe in humans as it does not multiply in the host, is not transmittable by contact, and is cleared spontaneously. However, the worms
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Contact: Laura Hill
lhill@acnp.org
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Source:Eurekalert

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