Showing posts with label IBD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IBD. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Eubiotics for GI Dysfunction and some Autism


Today’s post is about some drugs/supplements that have already been discussed in earlier posts.  Rifaximin, used in cycles, is an effective part of our reader Maja’s therapy, while Sodium Butyrate was highlighted long ago by our reader in Switzerland, Alli.

I had a consultation with a gastroenterologist last week and came away with a prescription for Rifaximin, microencapsulated Sodium Butyrate and Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v. Where we live, these are all inexpensive. Rifaximin is an antibiotic with extra benefits and costs about 7 euros (9 dollars). 

A course of Rifaximin can cost $2,000 in the United States.

I was pleased to read that the private equity owners of a pharmaceutical company that raised the price of a common thyroid drug by 6000% have just been fined $140 million in the UK.

Advanz Pharma and former private equity owners were fined £100m by markets watchdog

Perhaps some of our US readers should query the crazy price of drugs in the US with their congressman? Very many cheap old drugs are ultra expensive in the US, even insulin is over-priced. Not a good model of a market economy. 


Eubiotics – a big business

You may very well never have come across the term eubiotic before, but it is already a multi-billion dollar business.  A eubiotic is something that changes the gut microbiome to improve health. The big business to date are additives to animal feed, rather than products for human health.

Eubiotics work for humans as well. Rifaximin is an antibiotic but it also has the additional properties of a eubiotic. 

“These include: modulation of the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract by promoting the growth of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains (the so-called “eubiotic” effect) as well as modulation of bacterial metabolism, including inhibition of the hydrocarbon-derived pathways.  This drug is also capable of reducing the virulence of enteropathogenic Escherichia coli strains by inhibiting the expression of enterotoxins or adhesive factors. Interestingly, Rifaximin is distinguished by several anti-inflammatory activities mainly exerted by the pregnane X receptor (PXR), expressed primarily in the gastrointestinal tract, the small intestine, and the colon. Due to the activity described above, Rifaximin is called a eubiotic, not an antibiotic.”


Rifaximin, like vancomycin, is usually thought of as a GI antibiotic; it stays in your gut and almost none ends up in your blood.  Both drugs are used to kill off bacteria in your gut. This is all vancomycin does, so it is not classed as a eubiotic. Rifaximin, however, goes on to perform further functions as a eubiotic, so it models your gut flora in a beneficial way.

Rifaximin is almost a wonder drug for IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea).  It is also a common therapy for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), but while it works well for some, it actually makes things worse for some others.

Rifaximin is used both as a therapy for an acute GI problem and preventatively. It can be used in cycles, like a few days every month.

Maja is in a good position, because where she lives Rifaximin costs a few euros/dollars.

People with IBS-D in the United States often cannot afford monthly cycles of Rifaximin.

Other kinds of eubiotics include prebiotics, other probiotics, all kinds of clever fiber, inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) etc.  I did cover psychobiotics in an earlier post, these are probiotic bacteria that are used to reduce anxiety, ADHD and other psychiatric symptoms.

Psychobiotics (PS128) for Autism, Stereotypy and Sometimes Effective Therapies for what might be SIBO (Rifaximin and Herbal)


Sodium Butyrate

Sodium buyrate produces butyric acid when you swallow it.  Butyric acid is what gives rancid butter its smell.  Butyric acid is one of the big eubiotics used in the animal feed industry. I did cover the very old Japanese probiotic MIYAIRI 588 (full name is Clostridium butyricum MIYAIRI 588) a long time ago in this blog.  This probiotic, in use since the Second World War, produces butyric acid in your gut by fermentation.  In Japan this probiotic is used in humans and more recently as an additive to animal feed, to produce healthier, bigger, chickens and pigs. 

Our reader MG in Hong Kong recently reported that MIYAIRI 588 was beneficial in his case. 

My gastroenterologist prescribed me Microencapsulated Sodium Butyrate, which is covered in the research and has encouraging results. When you see the word microencapsulated, you might start feeling some pain developing in your wallet, rather than in your gut, but again, this product called Integra and made in Poland,  was not so pricey - about EUR 10 ($12) for 60 capsules. One capsule contains 150 mg of sodium butyrate in tiny particles covered in triglycerides.  I have no idea if it is going to do me any good, but the research suggests it is beneficial for certain types of GI dysfunction and will strengthen the intestinal gut barrier (the equivalent of the blood brain barrier). 

Butyric acid has several different modes of action, one is as an HDAC inhibitor, which was covered in earlier posts. HDAC inhibitors can change gene transcription, which is potentially very useful, including in the prevention and treatment of some cancers. The potent HDAC inhibitors from cancer therapy show effect in some types of single gene autism.

Autism-Like Social Deficits Reversed by Epigenetic Drug 

There are different classes of HDAC inhibitor and you would need to match the type of autism with the appropriate type of HDAC inhibitor.  Valproic acid is another common HDAC inhibitor sitting on the shelf of many people with autism plus epilepsy. 

Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v 

Lactobacillus plantarum 299v has been shown to improve symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  It prevents Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea among patients receiving antibiotic treatment.  It is also known to be immunomodulatory, shifting the balance away from pro-inflammatory cytokines.

The role of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v in supporting treatment of selected diseases 

Alterations in composition of human gut microbiome can lead to its dysbiosis. It is associated with gastrointestinal side effects during anti-cancer treatment, antibiotics administration, or infectious agents. There are studies confirming positive effect of consuming Lactobacillus plantarum 299v on intestinal microflora. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the role of L. plantarum 299v in supporting treatment of selected diseases, such as cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Clostridium difficile infection. The immunomodulating properties of L. plantarum 299v include an increase in the level of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which reduce the risk of cancer and improve the efficacy of regimens. The intake of L. plantarum 299v provides benefits for IBS patients, mainly due to normalization of stool and relief of abdominal pain, which significantly improves the quality of life of IBS patients. In addition, the intake of L. plantarum 299v prevents C. difficile-associated diarrhea among patients receiving antibiotic treatment. Due to the limited possibilities of treating these diseases and numerous complications of cancer treatment, there is a need for new therapeutic strategies. The administration of L. plantarum 299v seems to be useful in these cases. 


Bacteria could aid autistics

Might a daily dose of friendly bacteria help treat autism? UK researchers hope probiotics will soothe the gut problems linked to autism and may even ease psychological symptoms. They are planning a clinical trial to test the idea.

The proposed health benefits of probiotic bacteria are well known. The beneficial bugs are thought to out-compete other gut bacteria that can cause diarrhoea and ill health.

Children with autism are known to have higher levels of one group of 'bad' bacteria, Clostridia, in their guts, explains Glenn Gibson from the University of Reading. So he hopes probiotic food supplements that lower levels of Clostridia will allay some symptoms of autism.

He is not suggesting that the bad bacteria cause autism: genetic and environmental factors are both likely to contribute to the complex disorder, the cause of which is unknown. But toxic by-products of the bacteria may be absorbed into the blood and travel to the brain, where they may play a role in ill health.

At present, the researchers are honing their choice of bacteria. There are many different types of good bacteria, so it is important to choose one that can compete effectively against Clostridia.

One candidate, called Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, looks especially promising. The bacterium binds to the gut lining and stimulates its growth. As well as out-competing other bacteria, it also lowers gut pH, which helps the digestive tract to fight infection. It stays in the gut for days and has never been associated with any health problems.



I am always surprised how many common drugs that you come across have potential to be repurposed to benefit  some people with autism.

It really shows how effective therapy, for at least some people with autism, is already in the medicine cabinet at home, or more likely over at the grandparents’ house.

(statins, calcium channel blockers, asthma/COPD drugs, other blood pressure drugs, diuretics, type 2 diabetes drugs)

I thought my gastroenterologist’s therapy was quite enlightened. I hope his diagnosis is accurate; I am not entirely convinced, but time will tell.  The diagnosis from doctor number one was kidney stones and now I am on doctor number three. An accurate diagnosis is not always a simple matter, as autism parents know only too well.

I did meet Dr Federico Balzola a while back. He is an Italian gastroenterologist with a keen interest in autism. He is an associate of Dr Arthur Krigsman, a US gastroenterologist heavily involved with autistic patients. In some countries the connection between GI problems and autism is still a taboo subject, seemingly because Dr Andrew Wakefield was a gastroenterologist.  


I am always surprised how many young Aspies have symptoms of IBS or IBD. I would actually like to know if this is mainly a problem in childhood and adolescence, which I suspect is the case. 

One of my most popular posts was another one about gastroenterology, which really surprised me.


Friday, 14 August 2020

FMT (Fecal Microbiota Transplantation) Super-donors and Abandoning the “One Stool Fits All” Approach

Not all stools were created equal

There was a comment recently left on this blog posing the question of what makes a good donor for FMT (Fecal Microbiota Transplantation), or a “poop transplant” in plain English.

FMT is actually an approved therapy for Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI). Research has shown  FMT to be more effective than the antibiotic vancomycin. To quote from the research, The infusion of donor feces was significantly more effective for the treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection than the use of vancomycin”.

FMT might not be for discussion at the dinner table, but it is highly effective in some instances.

FMT is actually far more widely used than you might imagine.  In one of today’s papers from China they had treated 1,387 people using 20 donors, for a wide variety of conditions.

In the US, autism researchers at Arizona State University showed a benefit that was maintained after a period of two years.

Autism symptoms reduced nearly 50 percent two years after fecal transplant

At two years post-treatment, most of the initial improvements in gut symptoms remained. In addition, parents reported a slow steady reduction of ASD symptoms during treatment and over the next two years. A professional evaluator found a 45% reduction in core ASD symptoms (language, social interaction and behavior) at two years post-treatment compared to before treatment began.

An earlier study with only vancomycin (an antibiotic) had found major temporary improvements in GI and autism symptoms, but the benefits were lost a few weeks after treatment stopped despite use of over-the-counter probiotics.

The obvious question to ask is whether FMT has a potential benefit to people with autism who do not have GI dysfunction.  I think this question is far from being answered.

We have seen in earlier posts that modifying the microbiome has great potential to fine-tune the function of the brain.  Researchers at UCLA showed that the high fat ketogenic diet controls epileptic seizures not through the action of ketones in the brain, but via the high fat intake changing the mix of bacteria in the gut.

FMT is just one way to modify the microbiome.  The UCLA researchers are developing a medical food to produce similar effects on the microbiome as the ketogenic diet.

Very likely a personalized bacteria transfer, customized to the symptoms of the person, might effectively treat many more conditions than just GI problems.  

It does look likely that for some conditions there may be super-donors, people whose microbiome is particularly effective, when transferred to others.

But the research cautions against what is called the “One Stool Fits All” Approach.  The donor and recipient need to be “compatible”.

The microbial diversity of the donor is a good predictor of FMT success in the recipient. However, donor-recipient compatibility also plays an influential role in determining FMT success. Donor-recipient compatibility can stem from genetic factors such as differences in innate immune responses, or environmental factors including diet, xenobiotic exposure, and microbial interactions.

FMT for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): The Emergence of the FMT Super-Donor

IBD encompasses both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis; two debilitating disorders characterized by chronic relapsing inflammation of the intestinal. In contrast to CDI, there is no evidence that IBD results from an overgrowth of one specific pathogen. Rather, the disease is likely brought on by complex interactions involving the host's genetics, immune system, and gut microbiota. Both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are broadly characterized by a reduced diversity of the gut microbiota with lower relative abundances of the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla and higher proportions of Proteobacteria. A specific reduction in the abundance of butyrate-producing bacterial species, particularly Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, has been observed for both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Meanwhile, for Crohn's disease, an increase in a pro-inflammatory form of Escherichia coli has also been reported.
The first successful case report of an FMT for the treatment of IBD was published in 1989 when a male with refractory ulcerative colitis achieved clinical remission for 6 months following a retention enema with healthy donor stool. Subsequently, a large number of FMT studies have been conducted on IBD patients with variable clinical outcomes, remission rates, and longevity of effect. Recently, Paramsothy et al. performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 53 studies (four RCT, 30 cohort, 19 case studies) of FMT in IBD patients. Avoiding publication bias, their analysis of cohort studies revealed FMT was more effective at inducing remission in Crohn's disease patients when compared to patients with ulcerative colitis (52 vs. 33%, respectively). With regard to ulcerative colitis, a larger number of FMT infusions and a lower gastrointestinal tract administration were associated with improved rates of remission.
In contrast to studies of CDI, FMT studies conducted on IBD patients have frequently identified differential recipient responses that have been associated with variability in the donor stool. Currently, the stool used for FMT is not standardized in terms of donor selection (related vs. unrelated), preparation (fresh vs. frozen, aerobic vs. anaerobic), or the dose that is administered (single vs. multiple doses). While inconsistencies in FMT protocols make it difficult to compare different studies, there is a large degree of variability in clinical responses to FMT between recipients who have been subjected to the same study design. It is unfortunate that information on a recipient's genetic background or dietary intake is not yet routinely assessed, particularly given that some instances of IBD have an underlying genetic component. Due to the lack of genetic information, investigators have instead focused on the donor-dependent effect and proposed the existence of so called super-donors to explain the variation in recipient responses.
The first study to record the super-donor effect was a randomized control trial that was investigating the efficacy of FMT for inducing clinical remission in patients with ulcerative colitis. Moayyedi et al. assigned 75 patients with active disease to weekly enemas containing either fecal material or water (placebo) for a period of 6 weeks. FMT was shown to be superior to the placebo, resulting in significantly higher rates of endoscopic and clinical remission, albeit of modest effect (24 vs. 5%, respectively), after 7 weeks. Of the nine patients who entered remission, seven had received FMT from the same donor. Thus, it was argued that FMT success was donor-dependent.
Currently, it is not possible to predict the clinical efficacy of a donor before FMT in IBD patients. It has been suggested that remission rates could be improved by pooling donor's stool together, limiting the chances a patient will receive only ineffective stool. This stool pooling approach was recently investigated on an Australian cohort of 85 mild to moderate ulcerative colitis patients, in the largest randomized control trial of FMT for IBD to date. Rather than receiving FMT from just one donor, patients in the treatment arm were administered a stool mixture that contained contributions from up to seven different donors with the hope that donor-dependent effects could be homogenized. In addition to this, a far more intensive dosing program was adopted with an initial FMT delivered by colonoscopy that was followed by fecal enemas, five times a week for 8 weeks. Despite the multi-donor and intensive dosing approach, Paramsothy et al. achieved post-FMT remission rates (FMT, 27% vs. placebo, 8%, p = 0.02) that were similar to those reported previously. Notably, however, both clinical and endoscopic remission were required for primary outcome achievement in this study, whereas previous studies have mostly focused on either endoscopic or clinical remission rates alone. The pooled stool mixture was demonstrated to have higher microbial diversity than individual stool alone based on OTU count and phylogenetic diversity measures. Subsequent analysis of the different stool batches discovered that one donor appeared to exhibit a super-donor effect. Specifically, patients that received FMT batches that contained stool from this one donor exhibited a higher remission rate than those whose FMT batches did not include the super-donor (37 vs. 18%, respectively).

FMT for Other Disorders: Is There Also a Super-Donor Effect?

Evidence of FMT super-donors in other disorders outside of IBD is currently lacking. Case series and reports limit the capacity to identify super-donor effects because of limited sample sizes. However, despite the lack of large cohort studies, several studies have hinted at the possibility of a donor-dependent effect on FMT outcome. For example, in a short-term FMT pilot trial on 18 middle-aged men with metabolic syndrome, FMTs from lean donors (allogenic FMT) were found to correspond with a 75% increase in insulin sensitivity and a greater diversity of intestinal bacteria in the recipient compared to autologous FMTs (recipient-derived). It was later noted that the patients who experienced a more robust improvement of insulin sensitivity post-FMT had all been in receipt of the same donor. In a subsequent study on 38 Caucasian men with metabolic syndrome, lean donor FMT also resulted in a significant improvement in peripheral insulin sensitivity at 6 weeks. However, this effect was lost by the 18 week follow up. For the allogenic FMT, 11 lean donors were used, seven of which were used for more than one recipient. Whilst donor-dependent effects were not reported, the authors noted that the “multiple fecal donors might explain the transient and variable effects seen in the allogenic group.” As FMT research in this field progresses from small-scale case series to larger-scale randomized placebo controlled clinical trials, it remains to be seen whether the super-donor phenomenon generalizes to other conditions outside of IBD.

Abandoning the “One Stool Fits All” Approach

Microbial dysbiosis is a blanket term for an unhealthy or imbalanced gut community. As such, the population structure that is considered to represent microbial dysbiosis is variable between different disorders. Moreover, the microbiome deficit of one individual may not necessarily mirror that of another individual and therefore it is not surprising that patients respond differently to FMT. As more FMT-related clinical and microbial data are generated, it is becoming clear that “one stool does not fit all” in the context of treating chronic diseases with microbial dysbiosis. Equally so, the selection of donors based solely on clinical screening guidelines provides no guarantee of FMT success. It appears a patient's response to FMT predominantly depends on the capability of the donor's microbiota to restore the specific metabolic disturbances associated with their particular disease phenotype. If this is true, a donor-recipient matching approach, where a patient is screened to identify the functional perturbations specific to their microbiome, may be the best way forward. The patient could then be matched to a specific FMT donor known to be enriched in taxa associated with the metabolic pathway that needs to be restored. Immune tolerance screening would also be beneficial for reducing the impact of donor-recipient incompatibilities stemming from underlying differences in innate immune responses.

Framework for rational donor selection in fecal microbiota transplant clinical trials

Early clinical successes are driving enthusiasm for fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), the transfer of healthy gut bacteria through whole stool, as emerging research is linking the microbiome to many different diseases. However, preliminary trials have yielded mixed results and suggest that heterogeneity in donor stool may play a role in patient response. Thus, clinical trials may fail because an ineffective donor was chosen rather than because FMT is not appropriate for the indication. Here, we describe a conceptual framework to guide rational donor selection to increase the likelihood that FMT clinical trials will succeed. We argue that the mechanism by which the microbiome is hypothesized to be associated with a given indication should inform how healthy donors are selected for FMT trials, categorizing these mechanisms into four disease models and presenting associated donor selection strategies. We next walk through examples based on previously published FMT trials and ongoing investigations to illustrate how donor selection might occur in practice. Finally, we show that typical FMT trials are not powered to discover individual taxa mediating patient responses, suggesting that clinicians should develop targeted hypotheses for retrospective analyses and design their clinical trials accordingly. Moving forward, developing and applying novel clinical trial design methodologies like rational donor selection will be necessary to ensure that FMT successfully translates into clinical impact.

Objective: To examine the association between the clinical efficacy of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in recipients and the choice of donor, and to observe the characteristics of intestinal flora and metabolites among different donors. 
Methods: A retrospective case-control study was conducted. Donor whose feces was administrated for more than 30 recipients was enrolled. Data of 20 FMT donors and corresponding recipients at Intestinal Microecology Diagnosis and Treatment Center of the Tenth People's Hospital from October 2018 to December 2019 were collected retrospectively.
During follow-up, the efficacy of each recipient 8-week after FMT treatment was recorded and analyzed. Based on the efficacy of each donor, the donors were divided into three groups.Association of the efficacy of each donor group with the morbidity of complications, and association of efficacy of recipients with donors were analyzed. The evaluation indicators of FMT efficacy included objective clinical effectiveness and/or subjective effectiveness. Objective effectiveness indicated clinical cure plus clinical improvement, and subjective effectiveness indicated marked effectiveness plus medium effectiveness through questionnaire during follow-up. 

Results: A total of 1387 recipients were treated by 20 donors, including 749 cases of chronic constipation, 141 cases of chronic diarrhea, 107 cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), 121 cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 83 cases of autism, and 186 cases of other diseases, such as radiation bowel injury, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, paralytic intestinal obstruction, functional bloating and allergic diseases. There were 829 cases, 403 cases, and 155 cases in high efficacy group, moderate efficacy group and low efficacy group respectively. Baseline data among 3 groups were not significantly different (all P> 0.05).
In comparison of bacterial abundance (operational taxonomic unit, OTU) among different effective donor groups, the high efficacy group was the highest (330.68±57.28), the moderate efficacy group was the second (237.79±41.89), and the low efficacy group was the lowest (160.60±49.61), whose difference was statistically significant. 
In comparison of butyric acid content among three groups, the high efficacy group had the highest [(59.20±9.00) μmol/g], followed by middle efficacy group [(46.92±9.48) μmol/g], and the low efficacy group had the lowest [(37.23±5.03) μmol/g], whose difference was statistically significant (F=10.383, P=0.001). The differences of acetic acid and propionic acid among three groups were not statistically significant (all P>0.05). A total of 418 cases developed complications (30.1%). Morbidity of complication in low efficacy group, moderate efficacy group and high efficacy group was 40.6% (63/155), 30.0% (121/403) and 28.2% (243/829) respectively, and the difference was statistically significant (χ(2)=9.568, P=0.008). The incidence of diarrhea in low efficacy group, moderate efficacy group and high efficacy group was 7.1% (11/155), 4.0% (16/403) and 2.8% (23/829) respectively, and the difference was statistically significant (χ(2)=7.239, P=0.027). Comparing the incidences of other types of complications, no statistically significant differences were found (all P>0.05). Follow up began 8 weeks after the FMT treatment. The total follow-up rate was 83.6% (1160/1387). The overall effective rate 58.3% (676/1160). Effective rates of various diseases were as follows: chronic constipation 54.3% (328/604), chronic diarrhea 88.5% (115/130), IBD 56.1% (55/98), IBS 55.1% (59/107), autism 61.6% (45/73), and other diseases 50.0% (74/148). Comparing the effective rate of three groups of donors for different diseases, there was no statistically significant difference in chronic diarrhea (P>0.05); there was a positive correlation trend in IBD, IBS and autism, but the differences were not statistically significant (all P>0.05). For chronic constipation and other diseases, high efficacy group had the highest effective rate [65.0% (243/374) and 63.2% (55/87)], followed by moderate efficacy group [49.4% (86/174) and 38.1% (16/42)], and low efficacy group had the lowest [16.1% (9/56) and 15.8% (3/19)], whose differences were significant (all P

Conclusions: Different donors have different efficacy in different diseases. Chronic constipation, radiation bowel injury, etc. need to choose donors with high efficacy. IBD, IBS and autism may also be related to the effectiveness of donors, while chronic diarrhea is not associated to the donor. The efficiency of the donor is negatively correlated to the morbidity of complications. The abundance and diversity of intestinal flora and the content of butyric acid may affect the efficacy of the donor.


FMT in practice today does look rather primitive, but seems to be beneficial more than half of the time, even in autism in the Chinese study.

As expected, different donors have different efficacy in different diseases.  As FMT becomes more popular you would expect that more super-donors will be stumbled upon and then clinicians will have a better chance to match the donor to the recipient.

For certain GI conditions that do not respond well to current drug therapy, FMT does look a good option to investigate.  The level of success is likely to vary depending on the availability and selection of the donor.

It does seem that orally ingested bacteria in the form of probiotics often do not colonize the gut as hoped for, and just past straight through, with only a limited and transient effect.  The fact that FMT can have a very long-lasting effect is remarkable and likely due to the fact that these bacteria are direct from another human.

Modifying the microbiome is only now emerging as a treatment idea and it will take many decades to fully develop it.

Ingesting a mix of another human’s bacteria is not without risk.  

This spring, a 73-year-old man with a rare blood condition became the first person to die from drug-resistant bacteria found in a fecal transplant. New details about that unprecedented incident emerged on Wednesday.

The man was a participant in a clinical trial run at Massachusetts General Hospital and received fecal transplant capsules made in November with fecal material from one stool donor, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tests after the man’s death revealed that material contained a rare type of E. coli bacteria.

FMT seems to be becoming fashionable, with all kinds of people offering it.  The American Journal of Gastroenterology even published a study on Do-it-Yourself FMT. "Almost all indicated that they would perform DIY FMT again, though many would have preferred to have FMT in a clinical setting."  I would vote for the clinical setting and a carefully selected/screened donor. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Amino Acids in Autism

Amino Acids (AAs) are very important to health and it is important that all 20 are within the reference ranges, or there can be serious consequences.  Inborn errors of amino acid metabolism do exist and there are metabolic disorders which impair either the synthesis and/or degradation of amino acids.
It has been suggested that a lack of certain amino acids might underlie some people’s autism. This seems to be the basis of one new autism drug, CM-AT, being developed in the US, but this idea remains somewhat controversial.

In those people who have normal levels of amino acids, potential does exist to modify their level for some therapeutic effect. 

Examples include:-

·        Using histidine to inhibit mast cells de-granulating and so reducing symptoms of allergy

·       Using the 3 branch chained AAs to reduce the level of the AA, phenylanine, which can drive movement disorders/tics

·       Methionine seems to promote speech in regressive autism, but for no known reason.

·        Some AAs, such as leucine, activate mTOR. It is suggested that others (histidine, lysine and threonine) can inhibit it, which might have a therapeutic benefit in those with too much mTOR signaling.

·        D-Serine, synthesized in the brain by from L-serine, serves as a neuromodulator by co-activating NMDA receptors.  D-serine has been suggested for the treatment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia

·        Aspartic acid is an NMDA agonist

·       Threonine is being studied as a possible therapy for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), because it may increase intestinal mucin synthesis.

Amino acids, the building blocks for proteins

To make a protein, a cell must put a chain of amino acids together in the right order. It makes a copy of the relevant DNA instruction in the cell nucleus, and takes it into the cytoplasm, where the cell decodes the instruction and makes many copies of the protein, which fold into shape as they are produced.

There are 20 standard or “canonical” amino acids, which can be thought of as protein building blocks.
Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids; the others must be supplied in the food and are called “essential”. The human body does not store excess amino acids for later use, so these amino acids must be in your food every day.

The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

The essential amino acids (marked * below) are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

The three so-called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are leucine, isoleucine and valine

The so-called aromatic amino acids (AAAs) are histidine, phenylanine, tryptophan and tyrosine

When plasma levels of BCAAs increase, this reduces the absorption of aromatic AAs; so the level of tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine will fall and this directly affects the synthesis and release of serotonin and catecholamines.
Many sportsmen, and indeed soldiers, take BCAA supplements in an attempt to build stronger muscles, but within the brain this will cause a cascade of other effects.
In people with tardive dyskinesia, which is a quite common tic disorder found in schizophrenia and autism, taking phenylalanine may make their tics worse.  It seems that taking BCAA supplements may make their tics reduce, because reducing the level of phenylalanine will impact dopamine (a catecholamine). Most movement disorders ultimately relate to dopamine.

In effect, BCAA supplements affect the synthesis and release of serotonin and catecholamines.  This might be good for you, or might be bad for you; it all depends where you started from.

   Arginine *
   Aspartic acid
   Glutamic acid
   Histidine * Aromatic
   Isoleucine * BCAA
   Leucine * BCAA
   Lysine *
   Methionine *
   Phenylalanine *  Aromatic
   Threonine *
   Tryptophan * Aromatic
   Tyrosine  Aromatic

Blood levels of the BCAAs are elevated in people with obesity and those with insulin resistance, suggesting the possibility that BCAAs contribute to the pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes.  BCAA-restricted diets improve glucose tolerance and promote leanness in mice.

In the brain, BCAAs have two important influences on the production of neurotransmitters. As nitrogen donors, they contribute to the synthesis of excitatory glutamate and inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) They also compete for transport across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) with tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin), as well as tyrosine and phenylalanine (precursors for catecholamines)Ingestion of BCAAs therefore causes rapid elevation of the plasma concentrations and increases uptake of BCAAs to the brain, but diminishes tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine uptake. The decrease in these aromatic amino acids directly affects the synthesis and release of serotonin and catecholamines. The reader is referred to Fernstrom (2005) for a review of the biochemistry of BCAA transportation to the brain. Oral BCAAs have been examined as treatment for neurological diseases such as mania, motor malfunction, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and spinocerebral degeneration. Excitotoxicity as a result of excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate results in cellular damage after traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, because BCAAs also contribute to the synthesis of inhibitory neurotransmitters, it is unclear to what extent the role of BCAAs in synthesis of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters might contribute to their potential effects in outcomes of TBI.

A list of human studies (years 1990 and beyond) evaluating the effectiveness of BCAAs in providing resilience or treating TBI or related diseases or conditions (i.e., subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracranial aneurysm, stroke, anoxic or hypoxic ischemia, epilepsy) in the acute phase is presented in Table 8-1; this also includes supporting evidence from animal models of TBI. The occurrence or absence of adverse effects in humans is included if reported by the authors.

Cell Signaling

Leucine indirectly activates p70 S6 kinase as well as stimulates assembly of the eIF4F complex, which are essential for mRNA binding in translational initiation. P70 S6 kinase is part of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex (mTOR) signaling pathway.

The present study provides the first evidence that mTOR signalling is enhanced in response to an acute stimulation with the proteinogenic amino acid, leucine, within cultured human myotubes. While these actions appear transient at the leucine dose utilised, activation of mTOR and p70S6K occurred at physiologically relevant concentrations independently of insulin stimulation. Interestingly, activation of mTOR signalling by leucine occurred in the absence of changes in the expression of genes encoding both the system A and system L carriers, which are responsible for amino acid transport. Thus, additional analyses are required to investigate the molecular mechanisms controlling amino acid transporter expression within skeletal muscle. Of note was the increased protein expression of hVps34, a putative leucine-sensitive kinase which intersects with mTOR. These results demonstrate the need for further clinical analysis to be performed specifically investigating the role of hVps34 as a nutrient sensing protein for mTOR signalling.

Skeletal muscle mass is determined by the balance between the synthesis and degradation of muscle proteins. Several hormones and nutrients, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), stimulate protein synthesis via the activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).
BCAAs (i.e., leucine, isoleucine, and valine) also exert a protective effect against muscle atrophy. We have previously reported that orally administered BCAA increases the muscle weight and cross-sectional area (CSA) of the muscle in rats

3.4. BCAAs in Brain Functions
BCAAs may also play important roles in brain function. BCAAs may influence brain protein synthesis and production of energy and may influence synthesis of different neurotransmitters, that is, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and so forth, directly or indirectly. Major portion of dietary BCAAs is not metabolized by liver and comes into systemic circulation after a meal. BCAAs and aromatic AA, such as tryptophan (Trp), tyrosine (Tyr), and phenylalanine (Phe), share the same transporter protein to transport into brain. Trp is the precursor of neurotransmitter serotonin; Tyr and Phe are precursors of catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine). When plasma concentration of BCAAs increases, the brain absorption of BCAAs also increases with subsequent reduction of aromatic AA absorption. That may lead to decrease in synthesis of these related neurotransmitters [3]. Catecholamines are important in lowering blood pressure. When hypertensive rats were injected with Tyr, their blood pressure dropped markedly and injection with equimolar amount of valine blocks that action [49]. In vigorous working persons, such as in athletes, depletion of muscle and plasma BCAAs is normal. And that depletion of muscle and plasma BCAAs may lead to increase in Trp uptake by brain and release of serotonin. Serotonin on the other hand leads to central fatigue. So, supplementation of BCAAs to vigorously working person may be beneficial for their performance and body maintenance

Example of a treatable Amino Acid variant of Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a genetically heterogeneous constellation of syndromes characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interaction. Available somatic treatments have limited efficacy. We have identified inactivating mutations in the gene BCKDK (Branched Chain Ketoacid Dehydrogenase Kinase) in consanguineous families with autism, epilepsy and intellectual disability (ID). The encoded protein is responsible for phosphorylation-mediated inactivation of the E1-alpha subunit of branched chain ketoacid dehydrogenase (BCKDH). Patients with homozygous BCKDK mutations display reductions in BCKDK mRNA and protein, E1-alpha phosphorylation and plasma branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). Bckdk knockout mice show abnormal brain amino acid profiles and neurobehavioral deficits that respond to dietary supplementation. Thus, autism presenting with intellectual disability and epilepsy caused by BCKDK mutations represents a potentially treatable syndrome.

The data suggest that the neurological phenotype may be treated by dietary supplementation with BCAAs. To test this hypothesis, we studied the effect of a chow diet containing 2% BCAAs or a BCAA-enriched diet, consisting of 7% BCAAs, on the neurological phenotypes of the Bckdk−/− mice. Mice raised on the BCAA-enriched diet were phenotypically normal. On the 2% BCAA diet, however, Bckdk−/− mice had clear neurological abnormalities not seen in wild-type mice, such as seizures and hindlimb clasping, that appeared within 4 days of instituting the 2% BCAA diet (Fig. 3B). These neurological deficits were completely abolished within a week of the Bckdk−/− mice starting the BCAA-enriched diet, which suggests that they have an inducible yet reversible phenotype (Fig. 3C).

Our experiments have identified a Mendelian form of autism with comorbid ID and epilepsy that is associated with low plasma BCAAs. Although the incidence of this disease among patients with autism and epilepsy remains to be determined, it is probably quite a rare cause of this condition. We have shown that murine Bckdk−/− brain has a disrupted amino acid profile, suggesting a role for the BBB in the pathophysiology of this disorder. The mechanism by which abnormal brain amino acid levels lead to autism, ID, and epilepsy remains to be investigated. We have shown that dietary supplementation with BCAAs reverses some of the neurological phenotypes in mice. Finally, by supplementing the diet of human cases with BCAAs, we have been able to normalize their plasma BCAA levels (table S10), which suggests that it may be possible to treat patients with mutations in BCKDK with BCAA supplementation.

(Look at the three red rows, the BCAAs, all lower than the reference range, before supplementation)

Threonine, Mucin and Akkermansia muciniphila in Autism
Mucins are secreted as principal components of mucus by mucous membranes, like the lining of the intestines.  People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have mucus barrier changes.

The low levels of the mucolytic bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila found in children with autism, apparently suggests mucus barrier changes.

The amino acid Threonine is a component of mucin and Nestle have been researching for some time the idea of a threonine supplement to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), being a serious Swiss company they publish their research.      

Threonine Requirement in Healthy Adult Subjects and in Patients With Crohn's Disease and With Ulcerative Colitis Using the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation (IAAO) Methodology

Threonine is an essential amino acid which must be obtained from the diet. It is a component of mucin. Mucin, in turn, is a key protein in the mucous membrane that protects the lining of the intestine.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of inflammatory conditions that affect the colon and small intestine. IBD primarily includes ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). In UC, the inflammation is usually in the colon whereas in CD inflammation may occur anywhere along the digestive tract. Studies in animals have shown that more threonine is used when there is inflammation in the intestine.

The threonine requirement in healthy participants and in IBD patients will be determined using the indicator amino acid oxidation method. The requirement derived in healthy participants will be compared to that derived in patients with IBD.

Each participant will take part in two x 3 day study periods. The first two days are called adaptation days where the subjects will consume a liquid diet specially designed for him. The diet will be consumed at home. It contains all vitamins, minerals, protein and all other nutrients required. On the third day, the participant will come to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Subjects will consume hourly meals for a total of 8 meals and a stable isotope 13C-phenylalanine. Breath and urine samples will be collected to measure the oxidation of phenylalanine from which the threonine requirement will be determined. 

We determined whether the steady-state levels of intestinal mucins are more sensitive than total proteins to dietary threonine intake. For 14 d, male Sprague-Dawley rats (158 ± 1 g, n = 32) were fed isonitrogenous diets (12.5% protein) containing 30% (group 30), 60% (group 60), 100% (control group), or 150% (group 150) of the theoretical threonine requirement for growth. All groups were pair-fed to the mean intake of group 30. The mucin and mucosal protein fractional synthesis rates (FSR) did not differ from controls in group 60. By contrast, the mucin FSR was significantly lower in the duodenum, ileum, and colon of group 30 compared with group 100, whereas the corresponding mucosal protein FSR did not differ. Because mucin mRNA levels did not differ between these 2 groups, mucin production in group 30 likely was impaired at the translational level. Our results clearly indicate that restriction of dietary threonine significantly and specifically impairs intestinal mucin synthesis. In clinical situations associated with increased threonine utilization, threonine availability may limit intestinal mucin synthesis and consequently reduce gut barrier function.

It has been proposed that excessive mucin degradation by intestinal bacteria may contribute to intestinal disorders, as access of luminal antigens to the intestinal immune system is facilitated. However, it is not known whether all mucin-degraders have the same effect. For example A. muciniphila may possess anti-inflammatory properties, as a high proportion of the bacteria has been correlated to protection against inflammation in diseases such as type 1 diabetes mellitus, IBD, atopic dermatitis, autism , type 2 diabetes mellitus, and.

Gastrointestinal disturbance is frequently reported for individuals with autism. We used quantitative real-time PCR analysis to quantify fecal bacteria that could influence gastrointestinal health in children with and without autism. Lower relative abundances of Bifidobacteria species and the mucolytic bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila were found in children with autism, the latter suggesting mucus barrier changes. 

Previous studies in rats by MacFabe et al. have shown that intraventricular administration of propionate induces behaviors resembling autism (e.g., repetitive dystonic behaviors, retropulsion, seizures, and social avoidance) (12, 13). We have also reported increased fecal propionate concentrations in ASD children compared with that in controls in the same fecal samples (25). However, the abundance of a key propionate-producing bacterium, Prevotella sp., was not significantly different between the study groups. This suggests that other untargeted bacteria, such as those from Clostridium cluster IX, which also includes major propionate producers (24), may be responsible for the observed differences in fecal propionate concentrations. Moreover, it is possible that the activities of the bacteria responsible for producing propionate, rather than bacterial numbers, have been altered. Other factors, such as differences in GI function that change GI transit time in ASD children, should also be considered.
In summary, the current findings of depleted populations of A. muciniphila and Bifidobacterium spp. add to our knowledge of the changes in the GI tracts of ASD children. These findings could potentially guide implementation of dietary/probiotic interventions that impact the gut microbiota and improve GI health in individuals with ASD.

I think that modifying levels of amino acids can have merit for some people, but it looks like another case for personalized medicine, rather than the same mix of powders given to everyone.
Threonine is interesting given the incidence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in autism.  IBD mainly describes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
The research into Threonine, is being funded by Nestle, the giant Swiss food company, who fortunately do publish their research.
The trial in the US of CM-AT is unusual because no results have ever been published in the literature, so we just have press releases. It likely that CM-AT is a mixture of pancreatic enzymes from pigs and perhaps some added amino acids.

This 14-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 3 study is being conducted to determine if CM-AT may help improve core and non-core symptoms of Autism. CM-AT, which has been granted Fast Track designation by FDA, is designed to enhance protein digestion thereby potentially restoring the pool of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids play a critical role in the expression of several genes important to neurological function and serve as precursors to key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

Based on the study I referred to early this year:-

·        Amino acids, his, lys and thr, inhibited mTOR pathway in antigen-activated mast cells

·     Amino acids, his, lys and thr inhibited degranulation and cytokine production of mast cells

·     Amino acid diet reversed mTOR activity in the brain and behavioral deficits in allergic and BTBR mice.

in my post:

I for one will be evaluating both lysine and threonine, having already found a modest dose histidine very beneficial in allergy (stabilizing mast cells).