N-acetylcysteine for treatment of autism, a case report.
There are a limited number of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for the treatment of autism.
Meanwhile, oxidative stress and neuroinflammation are supposed to play a causative role in autism. N-acetylcysteine may provide cystine, a precursor for glutathione (GSH), which is an important antioxidant factor in the brain.
We here report a child with autism, whose symptoms were markedly decreased after taking oral N-acetylcysteine 800 mg/day, in three divided doses.
His social interaction was significantly increased. The score of social impairment on a visual analog scale decreased from 10 to 6 in the two-month trial. The aggressive behaviors decreased from 10 to 3. This case suggests that N-acetylcysteine may decrease some symptoms of autism.
A randomized controlled pilot trial of oral N-acetylcysteine in children with autism.
An imbalance in the excitatory/inhibitory systems with abnormalities in the glutamatergic pathways has been implicated in the pathophysiology of autism. Furthermore, chronic redox imbalance was also recently linked to this disorder.
The goal of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of using oral N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a glutamatergic modulator and an antioxidant, in the treatment of behavioral disturbance in children with autism.
This was a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of NAC in children with autistic disorder. Subjects randomized to NAC were initiated at 900 mg daily for 4 weeks, then 900 mg twice daily for 4 weeks and 900 mg three times daily for 4 weeks. The primary behavioral measure (Aberrant Behavior Checklist [ABC] irritability subscale) and safety measures were performed at baseline and 4, 8, and 12 weeks. Secondary measures included the ABC stereotypy subscale, Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised, and Social Responsiveness Scale.
Thirty-three subjects (31 male subjects, 2 female subjects; aged 3.2-10.7 years) were randomized in the study. Follow-up data was available on 14 subjects in the NAC group and 15 in the placebo group. Oral NAC was well tolerated with limited side effects. Compared with placebo, NAC resulted in significant improvements on ABC irritability subscale (F = 6.80; p < .001; d = .96).
Data from this pilot investigation support the potential usefulness of NAC for treating irritability in children with autistic disorder. Large randomized controlled investigations are warranted.
Acetylcysteine rINN /əˌsɛtəlˈsɪstiːn/, also known as N-acetylcysteine or N-acetyl-L-cysteine (abbreviated NAC), is a pharmaceutical drug and nutritional supplement used primarily as a mucolytic agent and in the management of paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. Other uses include sulfate repletion in conditions, such as autism, where cysteine and related sulfur amino acids may be depleted.
Acetylcysteine is a derivative of cysteine; an acetyl group is attached to the nitrogen atom. This compound is sold as a dietary supplement commonly claiming antioxidant and liver protecting effects. It is used as a cough medicine because it breaks disulfide bonds in mucus and liquefies it, making it easier to cough up. It is also this action of breaking disulfide bonds that makes it useful in thinning the abnormally thick mucus in cystic and pulmonary fibrosis patients.
Intravenous acetylcysteine is indicated for the treatment of paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. When paracetamol is taken in large quantities, a minor metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) accumulates within the body. It is normally conjugated by glutathione, but when taken in excess, the body’s glutathione reserves are not sufficient to inactivate the toxic NAPQI. This metabolite is then free to react with key hepatic enzymes, therefore damaging hepatocytes. This may lead to severe liver damage and even death by fulminant liver failure.