What Does Autism Have to Do With Antibiotics? (Paging the Woo-Meisters)

Calling all woo-meisters (including ScienceBlogs Lord High Defender Against Woo). In this Slate article about the vaccines-cause-autism crowd, which describes how this is one idiot idea that will never go away, I came across this puzzling statement about antibiotics:

Another apparent benefit is the notion, espoused by a network of alternative-medical practitioners and supplement pushers, that if vaccines are the cause, the damage can be repaired, the child made whole. In the homes of autistic children it is not unusual to find cabinets filled with 40 different vitamins and supplements, along with casein-free, gluten-free foods, antibiotics, and other drugs and potions. Each is designed to fix an aspect of the "damage" that vaccines or other "toxins" caused.

What on earth are the antibiotics being used for? Because some antibiotics really aren't that good for you. Any ideas?

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At least one person, Joan Fallon, has hypothesized that antibiotics cause autism.

But Joan is pretty out there to begin with. She has applied for several patents for treatment of autism.

Then there is the NIMH clinical trial evaluating Minocycline to treat autism.


At one time there was a big run on Vancomycin because it was being used to treat autism.

By notmercury (not verified) on 05 Jul 2007 #permalink

Ear infections, maybe. I've noted that my son has sometimes seemed to speak better while on an antibiotic---that's _very, very, very_ anecdotal.

Mad Mike, what about "autism is caused by yeast infection" ?

"We know that poor bowel ecology - common in autistic children - often promotes the overgrowth of fungi and other microbes. These microbes can be involved in autism, as fungal metabolites are often found in the urine of autistic children."
"We also know that fungi can make hallucinogenic substances. LSD, for instance, is derived from ergot, and psilocybin from mushrooms. The theory that fungi are producing the compounds which are creating autistic behavior is not so far-fetched."


I always figured that a majority of autistics were male, and yeast infection was mainly a female health concern ??

I agree about the high incidence of ear infections, but also can't imagine why anyone would just have antibiotics on hand for (arbitrary/anecdotal)use in an autistic child. It's obviously not a very brilliant move to dose regularly or on impulse with any antibiotic. I would call that sort of behavior damaging and a desperate grasping of straws. It's sad, really.

Mike, yeast is something that can occur in both sexes, and can be a systemic issue. Thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth and throat that occurs in compromised immune systems and not unusually in children. What's even more puzzling to me, regarding your original post, is that overgrowth of naturally present systemic yeasts during and as a result of antibiotic administration is quite NORMAL. Another reason to entirely avoid antibiotics in these instances at ALL COSTS, I would think! I hate to be cliche, but whatever happened to "First do no harm?" Is there such a thing as too much parental freedom as far as treating our own and making demands on the medical profession to do so is concerned? Things I will think about while I shower...

I saw on an autism blog, a practician that stated that he put all his autistic children patients on Diflucan and another antifungal drug, even if their test came out negative for yeast infection "because the test often misses out the yeast". I was not impressed.

I have autism, and I get sick all the time. My immune system would make more sense if it was in an 80 year old man. So we always ended up with extra antibiotics.

Nizoral is often given to combat yeast, in pills, creams or lozenges. Also Nystatin is a big one.
I too have a young body on the outside and the immune system of an elderly person. Still not a great idea to arbitrarily decide one needs antibiotics without first blood tests and culturing to specify which bacteria you are targeting. Many miss specific bacteria and not many cover all. Vancomycin is the only one offhand I can think off that would cover most all and does not aid in the dreaded bacterial mutations to super bacteria. It plainly kicks butt and takes no prisoners. I always question why it's not more widely in use or at least as well known as Penicillin. I wouldn't want an arsenal of various antibiotics in my medicine chest and have to be responsible for point-blank GUESSING which one would fix what problem. Not even with a previous diagnosis of what would perhaps appear to be the same problem. It's actually dangerous Russian Roulette with your body and the bacteria. Antibiotics are not always harmless.

There's an NIMH trial recruiting autistic kids for antibiotic treatment. Here's the listing from clinicaltrials.gov

Sponsored by: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Information provided by: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00409747


There is a subgroup of children with autism that appears to develop typically for a period of time, and then loses social or language skills, or regresses. A recent study by Vargas and co-workers at Johns Hopkins has demonstrated that this regressive type of autism is associated with chronic brain inflammation as shown by an abnormal production of inflammatory cytokines among other abnormalities.

This present study will test the effectiveness of minocycline, an antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties, in treating regressive autism. Although behavioral therapies have improved some symptoms of autism, there are no medical treatments for the disorder, and many children have ongoing behavioral difficulties. A medicine with anti-inflammatory properties may be beneficial for children with regressive autism.

This will be an open-label trial, meaning all children in this study will receive minocycline. They will also receive vitamin B6 to reduce the possible chance of side effects of the minocycline.

Children ages 3 to 12 with regressive autism may be eligible for this study. The children will take minocycline and vitamin B6 daily for 6 months. Prior to starting the medication and vitamin B6, children will receive a comprehensive diagnostic assessment for autism as well as a physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests. Children will then receive ongoing assessments to monitor their behavior, communication, language skills, and medical issues at 2 weeks, and at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 12 months. Children who respond to the treatment will receive an additional 3 months of minocycline and vitamin B6.

That's interesting, Rich! And at least gives a possible answer to the question in the original post as to what antibiotics would have to do with it! Great work!

Another possible antibiotic purpose in Autism, from the cover article of this week's Time magazine. You can see how there could be a correlation, in my opinion:

"While such relearning has not been studied formally in humans, Vocci believes it will work, on the basis of studies involving, of all things, phobias. It turns out that phobias and drugs exploit the same struggle between high and low circuits in the brain. People placed in a virtual-reality glass elevator and treated with the antibiotic D-cycloserine were better able to overcome their fear of heights than those without benefit of the drug. Says Vocci: "I never thought we would have drugs that affect cognition in such a specific way.""


Jennifer, Lyme Disease is carried by ticks. Theres no known geographic correlation between autism and ticks. Many children develop autism before they have a realitistic chance to be bitten by ticks. Their parents and siblings do not suffer from Lyme, fiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

City dwellers ought to be less exposed to ticks. Autistic children abound in cities.

Thank you Jennifer for revealing us yet another autism quackery.

Our son makes progress, usually two years or more later than expected. We wait. Trying all these things to help is not productive unless they can be proven effective because you never know if the progress would have happened without the "treatment". I feel a little sorry for those parents who frantically search for cures. We celebrate when our son makes progress because we know it is a gift and a result of his efforts. I should mention that we have the luxury of a relatively mild position on the spectrum.

By Gregory Lynn Kruse (not verified) on 06 Jul 2007 #permalink

Roberta wrote: "I always question why it's [Vancomycin] not more widely in use."

First, it's probably in wider use than you know. My cousin was recently in the hospital for asymptomatic pneumonia (I've had pneumonia, and can't conceive of *not* having noticeable difficulty breathing when your lungs are filling with fluid, but he says he didn't experience that), and he was given Vancomycin immediately, no effort to administer any of the other antibiotics first. That surprised me - I thought doctors would be reluctant to use Vancomycin as a first step (see below).

Second, I'm grateful it's not in wider use, since that can help create resistant strains of bacteria. It would be a relief to hear that antibiotic administration procedures geared to avoid creating drug-resistant pathogens are widely taught and followed.

Thank you Arthur for showing your medical quackery to Jennifer. Autistic children are statistically as likely to be exposed to Lyme disease as non autistics. Children weeks or months old can be exposed to ticks that come into the home on family pets in the country AND THE CITY. Many parents have Lyme and so they also get their children checked as well. Thank you for exposing your incorrect stereotypical responses to a science you demonstrate to know little about.


the fact that autistic children are "statistically as likely to be exposed to Lyme disease as non autistics" proves exactly Arthur's point. There is no correlation between presence of ticks, incidence of Lyme disease, and autism. Which seems to imply that autism cannot be a misdiagnosis for Lyme, otherwise we WOULD see a correlation.

By Aureola Nominee, FCD (not verified) on 06 Jul 2007 #permalink

Gregory Lynn Kruse wrote: "We celebrate when our son makes progress because we know it is a gift and a result of his efforts."

And no doubt a result of the untiring efforts (or maybe more accurately, the unstinting efforts even when dog-tired) of you and the rest of your family as well.

Have their been any studies to see if there is a correlation between those diagnosed with Lyme before age three and before being diagnosed with an ASD? No. The correlation is unknown to date.

Or maybe there is a higher population average of those diagnosed with both Lyme and ASD versus ASD without Lyme? Has there been a study for that?

Population averge for ASD for my previous post

Yes, Aureaola, thank, you. Lyme disease has a known geographic distribution. Autism has a diffuse distribution that in no way match Lyme's.

Lyme-infected bytes are characterized by a bull's-eye rash. Autism has not been associated with insect bites. You would have to posit that Lyme-autism don't show and never show any of the common symptoms of Lyme (headaches, sore throat, cardiac palpitations, Bell's Palsy).

Of course, theres an active group of people claiming to suffer from an atypical Lyme disease, and I see they're not shy to loan their illness to autistic children. Way to Go, Chuck.

Way to go Aureola and Arthur for your ranting and mischaracterizations of my statements. I stated that Lyme and ASD are co morbid conditions. It was also inaccurately stated Lyme-autism don't show and never show any of the common symptoms of Lyme. Since you all seem to be so brilliant, how do professionals such as yourselves diagnose Lyme in a non-verbal ASD child with OCD physical stimming?

My assertion is that Lyme will most likely be overlooked by doctors for the ASD community and add to the complications associated with ASD. Now provide the study to dispute the hypothesis.

My only qualification here is being the mom of an autistic child, but here goes. My son is what we ASD parents lovingly refer to as a "gut kid". This is common and no, it isn't all in our heads, it is painful horrible diarrhea every day of his life. We ran about 4 tests and on all of them his intestinal yeast was off the charts. (And yes, candida grows everywhere in your body, not just on ladies' areas, for that previous poster-- it's on your skin and in your mouth right now!) The yeast was eating the nutrients meant for him and ulcerating his intestines causing failure of his immune system. Anyway after 2 years of diets for his damaged gut and anti-fungals and oxygenation (they are anaerobic) to kill the yeast, he is much improved. Now we avoided anti-biotics at all costs you can well imagine, but I have heard from parents whose children had the same symptoms from strep, pneumonia, cloistridia and other bacteria, so in that case anti-biotics would be very necessary. Not to "cure" the autism, but the very real physical illness that these children are suffering from that makes their autistic symptoms worse. Just like I didn't expect the anti-fungals to "cure" my son's autism. The treatment has vastly improved it though, because it is alot harder to do ABA when your stomach hurts and you can't concentrate because your intestine have been turned into a leaky homemade still from candida overgrowth. So please, we ASD parents have alot on our minds and need a little compassion. Don't assume we're all idiots who think cipro is gonna cure our kids. If it were true, we'd all be in line at the CVS. We talk to the medical community, we do research, and we talk to each other. We know what is going on and what is working for us. And if an anti-biotic somehow gives our babies less pain, or helps their immunity, I say you should just let it go and mind the business that matters to you, cause it can't matter to you more than it matters to us.

Ranting? Mischaracterization?

Bwahahaha! Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

I'll stop feeding the trolls now.

By Aureola Nominee, FCD (not verified) on 06 Jul 2007 #permalink

Thank you Aureaola for providing the CDC map. Just FYI, some of the states with the highest ASD diagnosis rates, NJ, FL, CA, LA all happened to be colored on the map.

Im so glad to see that peoples self described intelligence doesnt inhibit their abilities to be rude and uncivilized, I also will stop feeding the trolls.

Lyme and autism, co-morbid ???

So theres are autistic kids that never get bitten by ticks, and there are autistic kids that get bitten by ticks at the age of 3, or whatever ?

I see Mike's call for woo freaks has been answered.

I am responding to the original post about what antibiotics are doing in the cupboard in the cupboard of an alternative medicine advocate.

You will not often find antibiotics in an alt med home. In most homes such as these, we use oregano oil as our antibiotic (works extraordinarily well on strep and sinus infections, by the way). Antibiotics can have adverse effects on the probiotic in the intestines, allowing for an overgrowth of yeast (hence the "yeast infection" someone else referred to). Many kids with autism have a significant yeast overgrowth because many of them were on various antibiotics for most of their young lives due to a compromised immune system. A yeast overgrowth (called Candida in the alt med world) can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including drunken-like behavior in autistic kids, fibromyalgia-like symptoms, fatigue, fuzzy-headedness, migraines, muscle spasms, IBS symptoms, poor food digestion, etc.

I realize that most of the folks who have posted here have very strong opinions about their stance on alternative medicine, but I will say this: every member of my immediate family has had a significant health issue resolved through natural medicine that reg. med said "there's nothing we can do about this."--including brain tumors, debilitating joint pain, severe asthma, severe food and environmental allerrgies, hypothyroidism, mood swings, hormonal imbalance, and recurring sinus and strep infections, and a significant back injury. I practice solely alternative med these days and my family has never been healthier. No antibiotics, doctor's visits or other illness requiring medical attention for anyone in my house for over three years.

One more thought, the traditional medical community has NO treatment options available for autism. Nothing. Why is it wrong or crazy or misguided to try and heal the body from the things that have gone awry, such as the digestive system. For my nephew, taking him off of wheat/gluten and healing his gut through supplement resulted in first original speech, potty training, and the ability to show affection to mom and dad. Not bad results.

Just food for thought.

Why antibiotics?

No has said which antibiotic.

Some parents of autistic children, bewildered, report that every time their kid is given antibiotics (again, not necessarily specified) he improves. A lot.

And some parents give Saccharomyces boulardii (read about it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccharomyces_boulardii)
It is said to have 'anti-microbial' effects (among other actions). Is it possible that the Slate article could have been talking about that? Of course, it's always possible the Slate article was poorly informed . . .

By getitright (not verified) on 06 Jul 2007 #permalink

Greetings All
I have been an advocate for children with ASD'S for about three years now and I have done a tremendouse amount of research on the topic. Here are the points that stand out the most to me regarding this research. By the way, I am a firm believer that there is a definate link between autism and thmerosal. Thimerosal has been banned in about 8 countries so far. Mostly Scandanavian countries but also in China, Germany and Russia. In Norway, not only has the government admitted to lying and a cover up about the dangers of mercury in vaccines but, they have actually begun awarding monetary compensation to the families who have been adversely affected by these vaccines.
Research has been done in my home state of PA. on the incidence of autism in the Amish community. The Amish do not vaccinate their children and autism is virtually non existant in their community. In fact, In Lancaster Pa, there have only been three reported cases of autism in the Amish community and all three of those children were adopted from outside of the community and had been immunized. So, as far as I am concerned, the case is closed on vaccines and autism. Now I think we need to concentrate on getting our own government to stop the lies and start taking responsibility for those who have been damaged by mercury in vaccines.
Now, on to the matter of the lyme desease and the mis diagnoses. About a year ago I became very ill. Severe pain throughout my body. Loss of balance. Loss of hearing. IBS. Vision changes, etc, etc. I have been diagnosed with Chronic Pain syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, MS, artheritus and a host of other illnesses and disorders. I have gone through the entire antibiotic treatment for lyme desease including the oral as well as the iv antibiotics. My condition continues to worsen.
My symptoms coincided with moving into a rental house that was infested with toxic mold. I am convinced that the mold is the source of my health problems. For many different reasons. I have now been in contact with many other people who have had the same experience as me and mold was the culprit. In my research so far, I have recognized a very familiar pattern. The government, Big Pharma and the CDC are handling toxic mold in the exact same manner they deal with autism. Biased research reports financed by the insurance companies and lobbying groups in congress. Lies and coverups.
So, if any of you have a host of different symptoms and are not having any luck finding a Dr. to properly diagnose and treat your symptoms, I would be most happy to give you all of the information that I have aquired over the last 11 months. You can email me at billyv5@yahoo.com. In the subject line put " toxic mold " so I don't miss your message. I typically have between 3,000 and 5,000 emails in my inbox on any given day. Most of it from other people with similar concerns and from news feeds and research reports.
There are thousands, if not millions of us who are not receiving the treatment we need because of the lies and deception that is so much a part of our government and corporate America. We deserve better and together, we can get this turned around in our favour.

Sincerely, Bill Vanderbilt

By bill vanderbilt (not verified) on 06 Jul 2007 #permalink

It's always so interesting to see how people's personality changes when in the anonymous world of the internet...this entire conversation would be a LOT more civil were it in person, I can guarantee you that.

I won't waste my time trying to explain anything to this group about the lives of families dealing with this epidemic, and what we face on a daily basis.

I will say that we don't give our kids antibiotics, and haven't for well over 2 years now...rendering this blog pretty much moot.

It's pretty disheartening to see random people out there, with nothing to gain/lose in the vaccine/anti vaccine debate just throw themselves into it for the sake of argument. Shows just how petty people can be, ESPECIALLY when trolling on the internet.

Let's just remember, your character is revealed by what you do when nobody is watching...

I've read above posted messages. Ignorance is a key to blame everything,everyone without being aware of the problem or illness COMPLETELY.
Did anyone read The Lancet,Saturday October 1999,Vol364,No:9185, pages:1153-1158...
or anyone aware of P.A.N.D.A.S can be found easly in:Molecular Psychiatry(2002)7


Thiomersal isn't in childhood vaccines anymore, and hasn't been for several years. There hasn't been a decrease in autism across these same birth year cohorts. This directly contradicts what one would expect if thiomersal and ASD were connected.

Research has been done in my home state of PA. on the incidence of autism in the Amish community. The Amish do not vaccinate their children and autism is virtually non existant in their community.

The Olmstead study is severely flawed, and does not hold water. First, Many Amish communities do vaccinate their children, not as much as the general population. It used to be true that the Amish were anti-vaccination, but after severe outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in the Amish community, this changed.

Second, there is a lot of good research regarding genetic connections to ASD. If the founding genetic pool lacked the genes tied to ASD, it is no surprise that this genetically isolated group has low levels of said disorders.

The correlation between thiomersal and ASD was never strong, and when studied in depth, it fell apart.

By Robster, FCD (not verified) on 08 Jul 2007 #permalink


If you think that Thimerosol just "went away" when it was ordered removed from vaccines, you are sorely misinformed. The expiration on most of the vaccines made at the time were WELL into 2007 and 2008.

The correlation between thimerosol and ASD still is quite strong, and still being studied in depth. It has FAR from fallen apart.

But...if it's so very weak to begin with...I'll challenge you to pull in your body's equivalent of 75mcg of Thimerosol (that's roughly what my children received in one day of vaccinations) and inject it into your bloodstream to prove the strength of your argument. Are you willing to knowingly inject yourself with mercury to prove your point? You'll accept this challenge on the net, but you and I both know in real life, you wouldn't do it for a million dollars.

sorry...my comment above was not to Bill, but to Robster...


You will have to come up with something far more toxic than than less than a tenth of a milligram of thiomersal to make a toxicologist go "eek." Do you have any idea how small an amount a microgram is? Have you ever seen a microgram of something? 1/1000 of a milligram is a pretty small amount, even if there are 75 of them. Something needs to be really toxic for microgram amounts to be a threat, and ethylmercury just isn't in that range. Would I get a thiomersal containing vaccine? I did as a kid, and have since then.

Would I be concerned by a dose of 75 mcg thiomersal multiplied by a ratio of your kid's weight to my weight? Not likely. Net or IRL, it just isn't scary. Perhaps if you were offering conotoxins, or sea snake venom compounds (ooh, maybe the lethal-to-human toxin in male funnel web spider venom, now that is nasty) I might balk at your challenge.

As to your dates, you are mistaken. Thiomersal was not in for domestic use vaccines manufactured after 2001 (except possible trace amounts, <1 mcg/dose), and the shelf life on the old vaccines ran out in January 2003. Because vaccines are often packaged for shipment to places with limited access to refrigeration, thiomersal is still in use as a preservative for some non-domestic use products.

The correlation (which doesn't equal causation, anyway) was never strong, and has weakened since. Thiomersal isn't being studied in relation to ASD outside of some pseudoscience groups. It didn't hold water under rigorous study, and scientists moved on to better hypotheses. Real research has moved on and has given us some very interesting genetic studies.

By Robster, FCD (not verified) on 08 Jul 2007 #permalink

Sorry, the posting system ate part of my post. It read my less than symbol as the start of a tag. The third paragraph should have read...

As to your dates, you are mistaken. Thiomersal was not in for domestic use vaccines manufactured after 2001 (except possible trace amounts, less than 1 mcg/dose), and the shelf life on the old vaccines ran out in January 2003. Because vaccines are often packaged for shipment to places with limited access to refrigeration, thiomersal is still in use as a preservative for some non-domestic use products.

By Robster, FCD (not verified) on 08 Jul 2007 #permalink

I have met several reasonable parents in person who gave their kids Lymes disease during or after birth, the child grew up with Autism, and the autism was cured when the lymes was treated. The most experienced pediatric lymes doctor in the world, over 12,000 children treated, has seen about 200 such cases, and a pilot study with 80 ASD children from 5 different geographic regions showed aprroximately 26% tested seriologically positive for lymes. Lymes as well as other diseases (PANDAS for instance) cause markedly different symptoms based on the age of the person infected. A common co-infection for Lymes, mycoplasma fermentans, causes ALS like symptoms in adults and autism like symptoms in young children. The people who make fun of this possible connection simply have no desire to find out the truth and ignore the documented case history showing the possibility of such a connection in a subset of autistic children. Thank goodness for the people who persist in trying to find out what is causing this (even if they are sometimes offtrack) rather than the people who only make fun, always say "it can't be that", and expect each parent of a sick child should just sit back and accept it. See http://www.lymeinducedautism.com/ if you seek more information.

By MikeBTexas (not verified) on 13 Aug 2007 #permalink

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