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Touted Hormone Has No Effect on Autism

Secretin doesn't even reduce the symptoms, new research says

THURSDAY, Nov. 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The hormone secretin, once touted as a possible cure for autism, doesn't even reduce the symptoms of the developmental disorder.

So says a new American study in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study, by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, involved the largest and most comprehensive trials of secretin. It found no evidence that the hormone is effective or that it has any role in the treatment of autism.

Secretin is a naturally occurring human hormone that's produced in the small intestine. Secretin helps control digestion and is used in diagnosing gastrointestinal problems.

The study examined the effectiveness of a synthetic form of secretin and a natural version from pigs. It included 85 children, aged 3 to 12, diagnosed with autism. They were given either a single injection of one kind of secretin or a placebo.

They were then evaluated in a number of ways, including language, social functioning and behavior problems. The children were evaluated by parents, teachers and researchers a week before receiving the injection and then again four weeks after the injection.

The study found no difference between those who received either kind of secretin or the placebo.

Autism interferes with a child's ability to communicate and relate socially with other people. It can also restrict their range of activities and interests. About 75 percent of children with autism also have some form of mental retardation.

Autism affects more than half a million Americans.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about autism.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Nov. 12, 2002
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