Most of the children studied by Dr William Shaw, former head of the toxicology laboratory of a major midwestern children's medical centre and now with the Great Plains Laboratory in Overland Park, Kansas, are diagnosed within the autistic spectrum. In most instances their urine organic acid analysis shows abnormal concentrations of blood sugar and a few compounds that closely resemble one of two categories of human molecules: neurotransmitters and citric acid cycle intermediaries. The citric acid cycle is the biochemical machinery in which glucose molecules are disassembled to release energy. Interference with the metabolic fire cannot only result in an inefficient energy production, but the raw materials needed for other body processes may run short. The other body process that is heavily dependent on raw materials for making new molecules is detoxification, so that blocking this cycle interferes with the body's waste disposal system.
One of the compounds that Dr Shaw kept turning up is called 3-oxoglutaric acid. It is a very close look alike to 2-oxoglutaric acid (also called alpha keto glutarate or AKG). The two molecules resemble each other so closely that one could be easily mistaken for the other, and indeed that is what happens in these children. This is highly significant, because of all the multi use molecules in the body, AKG is everywhere helping to rearrange, build and take molecules apart.Dr Shaw's work shows that some individuals, particularly children with autism, have very large amounts of di-hydroxyphenylpropionic acid in their urine and that this molecule is made by certain bacteria in the intestine. This look alike to a neurotransmitter is just one example of the way that intestinal germs, not properly detoxified, can produce molecules that resemble our own and can wreak havoc.