News ID: 264915
Published: 1228 GMT January 27, 2020

'Water pill' used to treat swelling could be 'a real breakthrough' for children with autism

'Water pill' used to treat swelling could be 'a real breakthrough' for children with autism

A 'water pill' used for almost four decades to treat swelling and heart failure could be a breakthrough in combating autism in children, scientists say.

The prescription drug that coasts just a few pence improves symptoms of the developmental disability by boosting signals between neurons, reported.

Bumetanide is a diuretic that enables patients with cardiovascular, liver or kidney disease to produce more urine and rid the body of surplus fluid and salt.

It has been used for years to treat the build-up of fluid in the body.

But a study of autistic children found it helps nerve cells communicate by correcting an imbalance between the brain's chemical messengers 'GABA' and 'glutamate'.

What is more the medication had no significant side effects, say the British and Chinese team.

Lead author Dr Fei Li of Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai, said: “I have many children with autism spectrum disorder under my care.

“But as psychological treatment resources are not available in many places, we are unable to offer them treatment. An effective and safe treatment will be very good news for them.

“The mother of a four year old boy living in a rural area outside Shanghai who received the treatment told me that he was now better at making eye contact with family members and relatives and was able to participate more in activities.

In future, we hope to be able to ensure all families, regardless of where they are living, can receive treatment for their child.”

A scan called MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) found the three to six year olds given bumetanide had less GABA than their peers — which improves brain function.

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