It is possible to improve symptoms in autistic children with a cheap generic drug... The drug, bumetanide, is widely used to treat high blood pressure and swelling...
We were motivated to test bumetanide as a result of background findings which suggested that the drug changed important brain chemicals in mouse models of autism; and also by some studies, including in autistic teenagers, showing that bumetanide may have beneficial effects.
Very small study etc. but may point towards something useful?There were 81 children with moderate to severe autism in our study – 42 in the bumetanide group, who received 0.5mg of bumetanide twice a day for three months; and 39 children in the control group, who received no treatment. The children were three to six years of age.
Some of the children had their brains scanned using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) – 38 in the bumetanide group and 17 in the control group. MRS is a non-invasive way of measuring chemicals in the brain. For our study, we measured brain chemicals called GABA and glutamate, which are important for learning and brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience).
In the bumetanide group, autism symptoms improved as measured by the childhood autism rating scale (CARS) and also by a doctor’s overall impression. The doctors who were assessing symptom change were “blind” to treatment – that is, they were unaware of who was receiving bumetanide. Improvements in symptoms were associated with changes in the brain chemicals GABA/glutamate ratios and, in particular, with decreases in GABA.
Zhang et al. Symptom improvement in children with autism spectrum disorder following bumetanide administration is associated with decreased GABA/glutamate ratios Translational Psychiatry volume 10, Article number: 9 (2020)
Open Access: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-020-0692-2