Aminoglycoside antibiotics and autism: a speculative hypothesis

Manev, Radmila; Manev, Hari
January 2001
BMC Psychiatry;2001, Vol. 1, p5
Academic Journal
Background: Recently, it has been suspected that there is a relationship between therapy with some antibiotics and the onset of autism; but even more curious, some children benefited transiently from a subsequent treatment with a different antibiotic. Here, we speculate how aminoglycoside antibiotics might be associated with autism. Presentation: We hypothesize that aminoglycoside antibiotics could a) trigger the autism syndrome in susceptible infants by causing the stop codon readthrough, i.e., a misreading of the genetic code of a hypothetical critical gene, and/or b) improve autism symptoms by correcting the premature stop codon mutation in a hypothetical polymorphic gene linked to autism. Testing: Investigate, retrospectively, whether a link exists between aminoglycoside use (which is not extensive in children) and the onset of autism symptoms (hypothesis "a"), or between aminoglycoside use and improvement of these symptoms (hypothesis "b"). Whereas a prospective study to test hypothesis "a" is not ethically justifiable, a study could be designed to test hypothesis "b". Implications: It should be stressed that at this stage no direct evidence supports our speculative hypothesis and that its main purpose is to initiate development of new ideas that, eventually, would improve our understanding of the pathobiology of autism.


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