Unexpected improvement in core autism spectrum disorder symptoms after long-term treatment with probiotics

SAGE Open Med Case Rep. 2016 Aug 26:4:2050313X16666231. doi: 10.1177/2050313X16666231. eCollection 2016.


Objectives: Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that typically displays socio-communicative impairment as well as restricted stereotyped interests and activities, in which gastrointestinal disturbances are commonly reported. We report the case of a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, severe cognitive disability and celiac disease in which an unexpected improvement of autistic core symptoms was observed after four months of probiotic treatment.

Method: The case study refers to a 12 years old boy with ASD and severe cognitive disability attending the Villa Santa Maria Institute in resident care since 2009. Diagnosis of ASDs according to DSM-V criteria was confirmed by ADOS-2 assessment (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). The medication used was VSL#3, a multi-strain mixture of ten probiotics. The treatment lasted 4 weeks followed by a four month follow-up. The rehabilitation program and the diet was maintained stable in the treatment period and in the follow up. ADOS-2 was assessed six times: two times before starting treatment; two times during the treatment and two times after interruption of the treatment.

Results: The probiotic treatment reduced the severity of abdominal symptoms as expected but an improvement in Autistic core symptoms was unexpectedly clinically evident already after few weeks from probiotic treatment start. The score of Social Affect domain of ADOS improved changing from 20 to 18 after two months treatment with a further reduction of 1 point in the following two months. The level 17 of severity remained stable in the follow up period. It is well known that ADOS score does not fluctuate spontaneously along time in ASD and is absolutely stable.

Conclusions: The appropriate use of probiotics deserves further research, which hopefully will open new avenues in the fight against ASD.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; autism; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Case Reports