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Common Drug Shows Promise in Treating Autism in Children

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Drug May Help Kids With Autism

French researchers may be onto something with a blood pressure drug they are using off-label on children with Autism.  That drug, bumetanid, which is a diuretic used to decrease fluid retention in those with high blood pressure, has helped to ameliorate the characteristics of Autism including social and communication issues and repetitive behaviors.  The French team has tried the drug on about 30 children with Autism, and they are now testing it on more European children.

Mechanism of Autism

The researchers also argue that Autism is caused by a faulty switch in the brain that fails to “flip” in time for the fetal brain to develop normally during pregnancy.  They also suspect that bumetanid is causing that flip to switch–stopping the chemical GABA from stimulating electrical activity in the brain to decreasing it.  This process must occur for a fetal brain to develop normally either at birth or near birth.  If this does not occur, the brain is left “too excited” and vulnerable to injury, in other words Autism.

Trials With Rodents Show Promise

Trials of the drug on rats and mice showed promise for the use of bumetanid.  When the pregnant mothers of fetal rats and mice with a form of rodent Autism were given the drug, their babies were born without signs of Autism.  Although this finding is promising, the lead researcher says that there are no plans to recommend giving the drug to pregnant women because it is impossible to know which children in utero will go on to develop Autism and it’s unethical to test the drug on otherwise healthy fetuses.  However, he does recommend that the drug be used on children that exhibit signs of Autism as young as 2.  Currently, diagnosis for Autism begins around the age of 4, but experts are pushing for earlier diagnosis.  The earlier the treatment is started, the better the chances of reversing the effects of the faulty GABA switch.

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    We will be keeping an eye on the results for this drug and its long term affects on Autistic children.