Adults with autism who were intentionally infected with a parasitic intestinal worm experienced an improvement in their behavior, researchers say.
After swallowing whipworm eggs for 12 weeks, people with autism became more adaptable and less likely to engage in repetitive actions, said study lead author Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
"We found these individuals had less discomfort associated with a deviation in their expectations," Hollander said. "They were less likely to have a temper tantrum or act out."
The whipworm study is one of two novel projects Hollander is scheduled to present Thursday at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Hollywood, Fla.
The other therapy -- hot baths for children with autism -- also was found to improve symptoms, Hollander said.
Inflammation caused by a hyperactive immune system, which is suspected to contribute to autism, is the link between the two unusual but potentially effective treatments.