Probiotic bacteria given to autistic children improved their behaviour and concentration to such an extent that the medical trial that made the discovery had to be stopped. The parents, whose children were on placebos, demanded that theirs also be given the probiotics.
The effect of the 'friendly bacteria', which helps the functioning of the gut, was so pronounced that the parents knew if their child as given a probiotic or a placebo.
Prof Glen Gibson, a microbiologist from Reading University, England, who conducted the trial, said he was disappointed that it had to be stopped. However, the early signs were very positive, and many parents told him their children's concentration and behaviour had improved.
Many children with learning difficulties have 'bad' bacteria, called clostridia, in their gut, earlier research has established.
The probiotic used by Prof Gibson was designed to reduce or eliminate clostridia levels, and promote 'friendly' bacteria, which helps the gut properly process food and nutrients.
While the trial was running, children taking the probiotic were showing fewer signs of autism, Prof Gibson said. The probiotic was taken every day in powder form.