Autism Spectrum Disorder affects how people interact with others, their behaviors, and how they communicate. As the name suggests, it is a spectrum meaning that people with Autism can have a variety of different traits at various levels of severity.
Research is often conducted on how challenging traits can be managed or lessened. There are many unanswered questions about the core causes and reasons behind Autistic traits and symptoms associated with the spectrum disorder.
In the United States, scientists and researchers have studied the effects that Suramin has had on individuals with Autism. The conclusions made from these studies have been eye-opening for doctors and families.
A trial was conducted where boys and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 14 with similar severity of autism were given Suramin intravenously. It was noted that there were improvements in areas such as social interaction and language use. There was also a decrease in restricted behaviors and repetitive behaviors.
Although this was a small sample group, the clinical use of low-dose Suramin showed encouraging results. The findings of this trial have been published on the United States National Library of Medicine website. There were various improvements and changes noted by family members, education facilitators, and doctors. You can read more on that here. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5497533/
Although Suramin was created in 1916, this particular trial was the first of its kind to focus on the potential use of the drug to treat Autism. Traditionally it has been used to treat African Sleeping Sickness, otherwise known as African Trypanosomiasis. The drug is one of the oldest drugs to still be in use today. It is listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. This trial, conducted by UC San Diego School of Medicine, could potentially lead to more research focused on how Suramin and drugs like it may be used to treat traits or symptoms associated with ASD.
There were encouraging results from this trial. Dr. Robert K. Naviaux, MD. PhD. from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine reported that some children saw improvements in the use of speech while others experienced an increased ability to use fine motor skills. The long-term effects of this trial were interesting as some newly developed skills based on motor memory stayed with the children after the trial was over. For example, some children learned how to tie their shoelaces for the first time during the trial of Suramin. After the study was over, these new skills remained with the children. Some of the boys saw improvements in social skills, repetitive behaviors, and changes in sleep patterns. You can see more on that here.
Originally, through the study of mitochondrial diseases and disorders, Dr. Naviaux began his study and research focusing on the cause and treatment of Autism. He describes his work around the concept of Cell Danger Response relating to environmental and genetic stress. Following the initial trial and findings, Dr. Naviaux has continued to seek permission and funding to continue his research in the United States on the effects of Suramin in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here is an interesting interview with Dr. Naviaux where he describes how he began his quest to find a medicine that could help people with Autism.
In a video produced by UC San Diego Health, parents of children who were in the trial of Suramin to help with ASD, described the changes they saw. Parents observed changes in social behavior such as improved use of eye contact as well as improvements in the use of vocabulary and sentence delivery. Parents noticed improvements in the way their children interacted with others and how they responded to situations and events that were happening around them. Data collected over the course of the trial and following it, showed some promising effects that Suramin had on the children. See more on that here.
As the initial trial of Suramin in people with ASD included only boys and adolescent males, further research may need to be conducted to indicate whether there would be positive results when used in adult males as well as adult females and girls with Autism. ASD often presents itself differently in females with various traits being masked or hidden. You can read more on that here in an article by Ratto, A.B., Kenworthy, L., Yerys, B.E. et al. “What about the Girls? Sex-based Differences in Autistic Traits and Adaptive Skills.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5925757/
Dr. Judy Mikovits also suggests that Suramin may be a cure for some core Autism traits. As a former biochemistry researcher, Mikovits has also authored books on the subjects of autism and retroviruses. She has conducted research on the potential correlation between environmentally acquired immune dysfunction, chronic inflammation, and other disorders and diseases.
It’s important to note that many individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or parents with children who are on the spectrum do not wish to cure themselves of the disorder. Instead, they seek out ways to best manage their traits, the way they interact with others, and by reducing difficult behaviors or anxiety. There are many challenges that people with Autism face daily that can be difficult for them to cope with. The frequency of some Autistic traits can also be difficult for other family members. Therefore, it is exciting to see interesting and promising research being carried out that may lead to effective treatments for Autism.
The use of drugs such as Suramin, if found to assist people with Autism on a greater scale, is an exciting prospect. The initial trial and findings by doctors and researchers such as Dr. Naviaux may pave the way for further trials and research. As a greater understanding of Autism begins to emerge, there is hope for where research around Autism may lead in the future.
Related video: Autism Made in the USA | Documentary
Suramin is available here.