A small study involving 10 children with autism showed very hopeful results after a treatment with Suramin. Originally, this drug has been developed about a century ago, for the treatment of African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness.
Namely, the children who received a single dose of this drug showed measurable, but not permanent improvements in the symptoms of the autism spectrum disorder.
Autism, also known under the name Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a disability in development with behavioral symptoms. It usually appears during childhood and affects communication and social interaction.
This diseases can be expressed with many symptoms, which can vary in intensity and combination. Therefore, two people who have it may not express the same symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of autism include:
- Late language emergence
- Difficulty looking people in the eye
- Difficulty staring conversations or keep them going
- Problems with reasoning and planning
- Obsessive or intense interests
- Difficulty to process sensory signals
- Poor balance and motor skills
Recent numbers show that autism affects about 1 in every 68 kids in the US alone, and that it affects all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups. Also, boys are approximately 4.5 times more affected than girls.
There’s not a single cause for this disease, but it’s believed that a combination of environmental and genetic factors is responsible, going from contaminants to viral infections and complications in pregnancy.
The Suramin Study
In the small study, in which 10 children with autism were involved, the researchers examined the effects of a single dose of placebo and Suramin.
The children were randomly separated into 2 groups of 5. The first group received a single intravenous dose of Suramin, while the second group received a placebo.
The results disclosed that the 5 children who got the Suramin had significant improvements in the symptoms of autism. However, these results weren’t observed in the kids who got the placebo.
Mainly, the improvements were in language and speech, play, social communication, focus, calmness, repetitive behavior, and coping skills.
The research team used standardized interviews and tests to measure and quantify the improvements. Also, when the parents were asked to observe their kids, the researchers counted only the changes that lasted for more than a week. In this way, they were able to eliminate the fluctuations in behavior that might have happened anyway.
The Improvements Were Temporary
The researchers reported that the kids who got Suramin showed a significant improvement in the benefits they got from the occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other therapies in which they participated. But, the effects of the medicine decreased over time.
Namely, the reported improvements had a peak, and then, after a few weeks, they gradually decreased.
But, the researchers are not discouraged. They say that this discovery is enough to show that it’s worth trying different doses and treatments of Suramin in bigger groups and more diverse test subjects with autism and for longer periods of time. This will further help to determine how long the improvements last and if side effects may also arise. For now, the only noticed side effect in the small study is a mild skin rash.
Scientists say that the findings of the small study are hopeful for the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
However, Suramin is not yet an approved medicine for the autism treatment. Health experts strongly advise against its use in unauthorized environments. The medication needs to undergo many years of thorough and detailed testing through clinical studies to determine safe doses and detect any side effects.