Researches Believe Common Diuretic Med Could Help Treat Autism Symptoms
Bumetanide, a prescription drug used to treat the buildup of fluid in the body, might also be effective as a treatment of autism symptoms in young children, according to new research from the University of Cambridge, and several institutions in China and Taiwan. The drug could represent a major breakthrough, since most current therapies for preschool-age children with autism are behavioral, focusing on play and activities to improve language skills and social interaction.
According to a report this month by WebMD.com, Bumetanide might relieve autism symptoms by affecting two chemical “messengers” that help nerve cells in the brain communicate. The researchers explained that Bumetanide seems to lower the ratio of one key brain chemical, called GABA, to another chemical called glutamate.
“This is the first demonstration that bumetanide improves brain function and reduces symptoms by reducing the amount of the brain chemical GABA,” researcher Ching-Po Lin said.
Cambridge psychiatry professor Barbara Sahakian said the study is “important and exciting, because it means that there is a drug that can improve social learning and reduce [autism] symptoms during the time when the brains of these children are still developing.”
The new study involved 83 children with autism, between 3 to 6 years of age. One group of 42 children received 0.5 milligrams of bumetanide twice a day for three months, while a second group of 41 children received no treatment. The study, published on January 26 in Translational Psychiatry, found reduced autism symptoms and no serious side effects.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, believes families “should wait until we know a little more about its potential benefits and side effects. We need a methodologically rigorous, well-designed clinical trial to better assess the clinical benefits of bumetanide."