«Simplified Evaluation and Treatment of Autism Using Biomarker Directed Algorithms© Jeff Bradstreet MD, MD(H), FAAFP, Dan Rossignol MD, FAAFP and ...»
Simplified Evaluation and Treatment of Autism Using Biomarker
Jeff Bradstreet MD, MD(H), FAAFP, Dan Rossignol MD, FAAFP and Scott Smith, PA
International Child Development Resource Center, Melbourne, Florida and Phoenix Arizona
Main Office Phone: 321-259-7111
While autism presents complex medical problems for physicians, it seems to us that the approach
can now be streamlined for many children. This is possible as a result of advances in the research on biomarkers. This has always been the goal of the biomedical therapy advocates. And given the most recent data from the U.S. and the U.K. which reflect that 1-2 % of males under 12 may have autism1,2, a simplified approach is needed for broad application to make it reasonable for mainstream pediatricians and family practitioners. Simultaneously, abundant evidence shows us that Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA, previously know as Behavior Modification) can recover children as well. So how can this be? Simply the brain is bidirectional in its functioning and requires input as much as it gives output. So the programming of a child with curriculum to master skill deficits with ABA is vital to their recover as well and needs to be address along with issues of inflammatory bowel disease and other medical problems. And all of us need to avoid reductionistic thinking about the human being as a biological machine as it is clearly far more complicated than that. To that end I wanted to include the
of the UCLA follow-up study demonstrating long- term success with ABA.
Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment.
McEachin JJ, Smith T, Lovaas OI.
Am J Ment Retard. 1993 Jan;97(4):359-72 UCLA, Department of Psychology 90024-1563.
After a very intensive behavioral intervention, an experimental group of 19 preschool-age children with autism achieved less restrictive school placements and higher IQs than did a control group of 19 similar children by age (Lovaas, 1987). The present study followed-up this finding by assessing subjects at a mean age of 11.5 years. Results showed that the experimental group preserved its gains over the control group. The 9 experimental subjects who had achieved the best outcomes at age 7 received particularly extensive evaluations indicating that 8 of them were indistinguishable from average children on tests of intelligence and adaptive behavior. Thus, behavioral treatment may produce long-lasting and significant gains for many young children with autism.
ICDRC has records on about 4,000 autistic children which we have evaluated and treated over the past decade. This provides an extensive clinical experience with the medical aspects of this disorder, and it is very much similar to other practitioners, e.g.: Baker, Bock, Boris, Goldblatt, Freedenfeld, Levinson, Mumper, Neubrander and many others. In various Defeat Autism Now!
Think Tanks we have all shared data and findings with one another and a central theme has emerged from these exchanges. This is our take on it and the way we generally evaluate and treat children on the spectrum. Obviously this process does not replace a good history and physical exam and a 1 physician’s clinical judgment – it is not medical advice – but a general framework of how we look at this disorder and decide on treatment.
Autisms generally have abnormalities in these related and overlapping areas:
1) oxidative stress3
2) decreased methylation capacity and limited transsulfation4
3) increased toxic burden – primarily of heavy metals and especially of mercury5, and bacteria generated neurotoxins (particularly Clostridia species bacteria).6
4) immunological dysregulation with a unique inflammatory bowel disease and immune activation of glial cells in the brain7
5) central nervous system hypoperfusion or abnormal regulation of blood supply to the brain8.
Most children we evaluate have ALL of these happening at the same time. All of these have broad negative influences on development and will impact all of the secondary features of autism including sensory abnormalities, coordination, cognition, mood, general health, sleep, and gastrointestinal function. They all connect like gears in the child’s system and for that reason we need all of then turning in the right direction and properly connected.
By necessity of brevity, this discussion will only provide an overview of the evaluations and treatments. It is our general belief, that unless all of the underlying major biological disruptions are dealt with simultaneously, the cyclical negative impact of these problems on each other will perpetuate the autism symptoms and delay recovery.
BIOMARKERS: Note, some of these tests may be considered by Medicare, Medicaid and other carriers as investigational and, therefore, may not be payable as a covered benefit for patients. This is not an exhaustive list – it is intended to target core issues in autism.
Immune Blood Markers: It is very difficult to get direct measurement of brain inflammation and even cerebral spinal fluid has offered inconsistent findings. Stool findings for things like fecal
calprotectin are also inconsistent predictors of disease. For this reason I use other markers:
1) Autoantibodies to endovasculature9 performed at Washington University in St. Louis
• Predicts immune involvement in speech delay and need to deal with immune vascular issues
• Forms can be downloaded from http://www.neuro.wustl.edu/neuromuscular/lab/serumreqc.htm and check the box labeled Autism/Landau-Kleffner Syndrome variant.
• If you are new to this test procedure, download the instructions for shipping and handling at http://www.neuro.wustl.edu/neuromuscular/lab/seruminst.htm
2) Neopterin/Biopterin10: these are two sides of the same coin.
• Neopterin predicts the degree of cell mediated immune activation
• Biopterin is a measure of attempts to down-regulate immune activation
3) ASO & Anti-DNase B and D8/17 Lymphocytes11
• These are strep bacterial markers and if significantly elevated indicate recent strep infection
• When associated with a change in obsessive compulsive or tic behavior these may predict response to immune therapy and possible treatments. These are PANDAS like issues which are common in autism12. D8/17 is available through Immunoscience Laboratories.
4) Immunoglobulin subsets: IgG (1-4), IgM, IgA and IgE
• All helpful to know prior to starting treatment.
2 They are most important in sickly or autoimmune children where they may predict response • to IVIG therapy (Oleske).
5) Brain antibodies
• Are rarely ordered by us anymore because antibodies to a variety of wide brain proteins can be detected in autism
• A more careful analysis indicates MBP is not the primary antigen. Furthermore, the other anti-brain antibodies are not available for commercial testing13.
6) Vaccine titers
• Can be used to show immunocompetency and obviate the need for booster vaccination, while immune deficiency may reflect a more likely response to IVIG.14
• They are also helpful to know if further vaccines are not going to be given since the immunization success of past vaccinations can be measured.
• High levels can only be interpreted as immunity to that agent and not likely a reflection of problems, e.g., a high measles titer after vaccination means immunity to measles and cannot be interpreted as viral persistence.
Immune Urine Markers:
1) Neopterin and Biopterin. We prefer urine over blood.
2) Urinary N-Methylhistamine: May be useful in some cases of autism
• Is a useful marker of significant inflammatory bowel disease15
• Is also elevated in asthma
• Mayo Laboratory and Specialty Laboratory can perform this test. (ref 9)
Immune Fecal Markers:
3) Eosinophil X
Oxidative Stress Blood Markers:
1) Reduced Glutathione16 (not easily available commercially at this time).
• Is the opposite of oxidative glutathione, so it is inversely related
• The higher the number the better.
2) GSSG, which is oxidized glutathione (not easily available commercially at this time).
3) Levels of major antioxidant proteins in the serum (standard blood tests)
• Transferrin (iron-binding protein)
• Ceruloplasmin (copper-binding protein)
• Both are significantly reduced in autistic children as compared to their developmentally normal non-autistic siblings17.
• A striking correlation was observed between reduced levels of these proteins and loss of previously acquired language skills in children with autism.
4) Blood ammonia and lactate
• Reflect mitochondrial function and as such reflect the state of mitochondrial function in the presence of likely oxidative stress18.
Oxidative Stress Urine Markers:
1) 8 hydroxyguanine (8-OHG)
• Is a marker for RNA oxidation in the mitochondria and cytoplasm of cells.
• It is an easy marker to obtain for intracellular oxidative stress19.
• The DNA marker of oxidative stress (8-dOHG) is not elevated in most cases.
2) Isoprostane looks at fatty acid oxidation and reflects cell membrane stress20.
Heavy Metal Markers Blood:
Packed erythrocyte levels of toxic metals (mercury, lead, and arsenic in particular)
• Reflect ongoing exposure or rapid turnover from tissue.
• Lead in particular is trapped in bone and can be released during growth spurts without renewed exposure.
• These tend to tell us about the safety or lack of it in the child’s current environment.
• We also will not chelate more than once if zinc and selenium are low until they can be adequately replaced. So a full panel of packed erythrocytes is helpful since it looks at nutritional minerals as well as toxic metals.
• Special tubes are required and vary by laboratory method.
Heavy Metal Markers Urine:
1) Urinary fractionated porphyrins
• Are the ideal way to assess the metals that are left behind. It can tell if mercury is present but is a little hard to distinguish how much is mercury versus lead21.
• Ideally the lab should provide the entire chromatograph from the HPLC printout. If not, it would best to report precoprophyrin levels as this is the more sensitive mercury test.
2) Heavy metal challenge
• Ideally this means a post provocational urinary metal collected for either 6 to 24 hours. We typically choose 6 hours as most studies show the majority of chelation takes place in the first 6 hours.
• A first morning urine after a bedtime dose of chelator is an excellent reflection of chelator efficacy.
• Generally, we do not get pre/post urines – only post. This is both due to the added expense of a pre and the challenges of having two collections from most children.
Decreased methylation capacity and limited transsulfation - blood:
Both of the following are frequently deficient in autism. Decreases in either or both of these may help to determine Methyl B12 responder status.
1) Fasting Plasma Cysteine or Cystine (the double form of cysteine)
Intestinal Permeability: Abnormal absorption of lactulose and mannitol can be used to determine altered permeability in the gastrointestinal tract22.
Urinary Organic Acids: Reveal many factors useful in clinical management – unfortunately these levels have not been published and are generally not covered expenses by insurers. Yeast and anaerobic bacterial biomarkers in the urine do seem to correlate with clinical responses to antifungal and/or antibacterial intervention.
Oxalates: Can be measured in the urine and if high, support reduction in oral oxalates and perhaps reduce vitamin C intake, although this is controversial.
EMERGING TESTS: Functional imaging studies with SPECT, fMRI and PET are not routine although they can be expected to be abnormal in virtually all cases. Microarray Testing: The proper and harmonious expression of a large number of genes is a critical component of normal growth and development and the maintenance of proper health. Disruptions or changes in gene expression are responsible for many diseases. Microarrays are miniaturized biological devices consisting in molecules, for example DNA or protein, identified by the probes, that are orderly arranged at a microscopic scale onto a solid support such as a membrane or a glass microscope slide. The array elements bind specifically to labelled molecules, the "targets", present in complex molecular mixtures, generating signals that reveal the identity and the concentration of the interacting labelled species. Microarray analysis has a broad range of applications that involve different types of probes and/or targets. Microarrays have the potential to look at the true consequences of toxic or immune exposures on DNA transcription (i.e., functional analysis). It allows for evaluation of gene activation, protein production, immune activation and toxicological interference. Eventually it will be feasible for routine case management.
ICDRC Preferred Clinical Biomarkers and Lab Tests:
• Urinary: Neopterin and Biopterin
• Blood: Anti-endothelial Antibodies at WUSTL, ASO and Anti-DNase B, IgG subclasses, IgM, IgA and IgE, Complete Blood Count.
• Special: if Neopterin elevated and/or GI symptoms are present, check intestinal permeability to lactulose and mannitol. Urine tested after standard dose at timed interval. In the future, quantitative analysis of bacterial DNA in the gut will be routine.
The nature of the good vs. bad bacteria in the gut is a major determinant of intestinal immune function.23