PARASITIC DRUG AS POTENTIAL CURE FOR AUTISM
More autism in-depth research conducted today have published some very promising findings that can possibly cause the decrease of autism-related cases, and help affected families turn things around for the better. There are investigative analyses focused on determining the root causes of autism, and factors that could either improve or worsen the condition of autistic individuals. There are also studies done in the attempt of treating the disorder in a zero-in approach where subtle symptoms are expected to become almost unobservable, if not completely erased, to help people with autism gain more confidence with their own strengths. In connection with this, there’s a new autism discovery that highlights a certain hundred-year-old parasitic drug having the potential to treat autism symptoms in children. This new finding may shed some light on the nature of autism to help experts understand autism spectrum disorder in a new perspective. Although it’s been the conventional understanding that autism is a non-curable, the most effective types of treatment can prove very life-changing that any news exposing new methods of treatment can easily raise the hope of families and organizations who are in the quest of bettering the lives of autistic individuals.
The small case study talks about Suramin, a drug administered to the African community to treat parasitic infections and is known to be already around for a century or more. Specification of the drug includes treatment of sleeping sickness and river blindness by administering it intravenously, without involving the central nervous system in the process. The history of Suramin dates back to 1916 when it was first developed by Frederich Bayer and Co., under the product label ‘Bayer 205’. It is now among the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines. The drug is provided by WHO for free in regions where said diseases are prevalent, and can be acquired from the Center for Disease Control in the US.
The drug is said to have successfully eased some known autistic symptoms in children. The recent discovery of this drug’s autism treatment potential was made possible through the leadership of Dr Robert Naviaux, a genetics professor and Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center’s co-director, located at the University of California-San Diego. In his team’s official research findings, Dr Naviaux stated that a well-performed treatment where Suramin was administered in low dosage showed significant improvements in the condition of the autistic individual, especially in the areas of metabolism and core symptoms of ASD.
About the Study
Dr Naviaux’s team selected 10 boys with ages between 4 to 15 years old. The boys were divided into 2 groups with equal participants. One group received intravenous treatment with a low dosage of Suramin, while the other group was set up for placebo treatment. The research was also performed following a double-blinded approach, where neither the research team nor the participants knew which group received actual Suramin treatment and which group was placed under placebo.
After the treatment procedure, the groups were then carefully assessed and results were documented using observational techniques, with the help of questionnaires and interviews. The findings that were collected after the treatment pertained to improvements in numerous areas that were exhibited by the group who received actual Suramin treatment. They showed signs of progress in both linguistic and speech abilities, which results in an overall improvement in communication skills. During the assessment, the boys belonging to the same treated group manifested lesser behavioural issues and repetitive mannerisms, leading to a lesser need for learned coping mechanisms. They also acted calmer and showed more focus in their exercises which also translated to more progress in both occupational and speech therapies conducted after the treatment, compared to the group who were placed under placebo set up. According to Dr Naviaux, there were four non-speaking children included among the 10 participants, who were also segregated equally in the two groups. Those two children who belonged to the treated group have reportedly uttered the very first sentences ever since they were born, one week after the treatment was done.
The positive findings from the research were also backed up by reports from parents following the treatment. The parents of the boys belonging to the Suramin-treated group suggested that their kids continued to show signs of improvement in the three weeks that followed the treatment. However, the boys were then observed to regress and go back to their original condition before the research during the fourth to sixth week after that period of observed improvement.
Suramin’s effectiveness starts from inhibiting specific molecules from binding with purinergic receptors, which are a type of protein found in all cellular units of the body. Dr Naviaux connects this process to theorizing how Suramin could help reduce the symptoms of autism, stating that most cells when stressed, produce molecules that bind to these receptors which result in impairment in cellular activities. Such impairment caused by the binding may happen in the guts, immune system and the brain, which could explain the origin of autism as a disorder. Although the real cause of ASD is still yet to be known, Dr Naviaux and his team had this solid groundwork as they perform their research to know what Suramin could offer for people with ASD.
Reactions to the Research
Although potentially groundbreaking, Dr Naviaux’s research findings are still met with criticisms and concerns from other experts. According to Dr Jay Gargus, the Center for Autism Research and Translation director at the University of California-Irvine, the research was based on a limited size of participants and the drug was only administered a single time. There were also variables that could have destroyed the double-blinded methodology, such as the presence of rash on the group of boys under the Suramin treatment that could have prompted the parents to realize that their child belonged to that group. There are also anomalies in the placebo findings, where the boys showed very little improvement which is somewhat contradictory to what standard placebo findings should show.