TAIPEI, June 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A combination of oxytocin and a probiotic could synergistically improve symptoms of autism. These were the results of a clinical trial published this May in Nutrients. Clinicians saw improvements in patients given either oxytocin or the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 (developed by Bened Biomedical Co., Ltd.), while statistically significant benefits were found in those receiving a combination.
Over the past decade, oxytocin and probiotics have both been used in clinical studies to test their potential to alleviate symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Despite mixed results, researchers have continued to study their application for ASD. This is the first time their combined therapy has been studied.
"Because wide-ranging autism symptoms seem to develop through multiple pathways, it makes sense that a combination of treatments like this could prove effective," said Dr. Wenn Liu, who researches the gut microbiome and autism at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan.
Clinician-assessed overall condition improved
This randomized control trial divided 35 autism patients, ages 3-20, into two groups. Every day for 16 weeks, one group took the probiotic while the other was given a placebo. Then for an additional 12 weeks, daily nasal oxytocin was added to the regimen of both groups. Participants were evaluated at Massachusetts General Hospital first before treatment was given, next at 16 weeks, and again after the 28 weeks of the trial.
Clinicians assessed those given the combined treatment as showing significantly greater total improvement (CGI-I scale) compared to the placebo group. The combination also benefited social behaviors (ABC and SRS scores). No significant changes in blood serum markers were seen between groups.
Enhanced gut microbiome suggests synergistic treatment benefits
The group given oxytocin and PS128 also saw significantly modulated gut microbiomes, including unique benefits that suggest probiotic-oxytocin synergy. The altered bacterial strains may benefit not only ASD symptoms but also gut health, diabetes, metabolism, and inflammation.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that the body naturally produces. Its functions include promoting social and emotional bonding, and deficient oxytocin levels are associated with certain symptoms of autism. Low cost and minimal side effects make oxytocin an appealing potential for treating autism.
PS128 is a psychobiotic, a probiotic strain that yields specific mental health benefits. A 2019 study found the strain improved anxiety, defiance/opposition, and other social behaviors when given to children with ASD. Information about PS128 can be found at https://www.ps128.info.
The combination treatment study can be found at https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13051552.
SOURCE Bened Biomedical Co., Ltd.