You may have seen the story. A Harvard MBA dad with training in molecular biology notices his son’s autism symptoms improving after a round of antibiotics. Cue the headlines of ‘antibiotics drastically improving autism symptoms’ or the ‘missing link found in autism treatment.’

I’m not saying the report from John Rodakis isn’t a possible key to treating autism. What people should do is realize what medical studies are filled with. The reports are littered with ‘treatment x could do this,’ or ‘something is possibly connected to this.’ Correlation? Maybe. Causation? Maybe again.

Autism and Antibiotics?

So, with the disclaimer out of the way, what did Mr. Rodakis find? The hope is he better connected gut bacteria with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, John Rodakis reviewed recent research between the link and talked about his recent experience with his own child.

What the medical venture capitalist noticed was his son’s autism symptoms improved dramatically after being treated with antibiotics for a strep throat infection. Rodakis is quick to say he’s not advocating parents rush to their doctors for prescription antibiotics.

“I’m not advocating the use of antibiotics as a long-term treatment for autism, but I would like to see serious medical research into why some children seem to improve when taking antibiotics.”

That’s the correct approach, though not one parents want to hear. More studies. More time. No one can fault someone for wanting an answer now.

“We want to be careful that we don’t create a mad rush for parents to go and put their ASD kids on antibiotics,” he said. “It’s my hope that by studying these antibiotic-responding children, we can learn more about the core biology of autism.”

Gut Bacteria and Autism

His son’s temporary improvement isn’t something new. And, that’s what has people talking. A recent Arizona State University study found autistic children had less diversity in the types of bacteria found in their guts over children developing normally. A child on the autistic spectrum has a vastly different microbiome versus a child not on the spectrum.

That leads to the gut-brain connection. The idea is in its infancy when it comes to connecting the microbiome of your gut and autism.

“Many in the research community are now beginning to view autism as something more akin to a metabolic syndrome, one that the microbiome may play a role in,” he said.

That’s the key. Attack autism from all directions. Maybe a variation of antibiotics does hold the key. Just maybe Mr. Rodakis noticing the symptom changes is the spark leading to answers for millions of parents.


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