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Study finds unusual methods for treating some autism symptoms

Thursday - 12/12/2013, 1:46pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- Doctors researching autism have discovered some unusual methods for treating symptoms of the disorder -- they involve worm eggs and hot baths.

One study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York involved feeding autistic adults worm eggs to initiate an immune system response.

The people were fed eggs of the worm helminth trichura (whip worm) because they're not harmful to humans but do cause the body to react to the perceived invasion in such a way that reduces inflammation.

People eating the worm eggs performed fewer repetitive and ritualistic behaviors according to the study. That experiment involved only ten high- functioning autistic patients, but the researchers say the findings are promising enough that the method deserves further study.

Additional research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with autistic children shows some might benefit from especially hot baths.

About one-third of autistic children get relief from symptoms when they have a fever. Mimicking that effect with hot baths also helps symptoms, according to the study.

The study finds that fever-affected autistic children bathing daily in 102 degree water behave better socially compared to taking baths of only 98 degrees.

Both study findings support theories that inflammation may contribute to the symptoms of at least some autistic patients. The most popular theory now among doctors studying autism is that it's related to hyperactive immune systems elevating people's levels of inflammation.

The research has just been presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting.

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