Prescription drug improves symptoms of autism
According to a new study from researchers in China and the UK, Bumetanide improves some of the symptoms in young children with autism spectrum disorders and has no significant side effects. Bumetanide is a prescription drug for oedema. The study shows that the drug improves the symptoms by decreasing the ratio of the GABA to glutamate in the brain. GABA and glutamate are chemical messengers that help nerve cells in the brain communicate.
An international collaboration between researchers at a number of institutions across China and at the University of Cambridge, UK, has shown that bumetanide is safe to use and effective at reducing symptoms in children as young as three years old. ASD can be reliably diagnosed at age 24 months or even as early as 18 months of age.
The team recruited 83 children aged three to six years old and divided them into two groups. A treatment group of 42 children received 0.5mg of bumetanide twice a day for three months, while a control group of 41 children received no treatment. The researchers assessed symptoms using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), which is used to rate behaviour such as imitation, emotional response and verbal and non-verbal communication. Children scoring above 30 on the scale are considered to have ASD.
To understand the mechanisms underlying the improvements, the researchers used a brain imaging technique known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study concentrations of neurotransmitters within the brain. They found that in two key brain regions - the insular cortex and visual cortex - the ratio of GABA to glutamate decreased over the three-month period in the treatment group. GABA and glutamate are known to be important for brain plasticity and promoting learning.