Sydney: In a first, researchers have found evidence that nasal treatment with oxytocin, synthetic hormone commonly used to induce labour in pregnant women, can improve social, emotional and behavioural issues among young children with autism.
It is also the first clinical trial investigating the efficacy, tolerability and safety of intranasal-administered oxytocin in young children with autism, the researchers said.
Autism is a group of complex brain developmental disorders characterised by impairments in social interaction, communication, and stereotypical and repetitive behaviours.
There is currently no medical treatment for these problems.
In this new study, 31 children aged three to eight years of age received a twice daily course of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray for five weeks.
"We used some of the most widely used assessments of social responsiveness for children with autism," said one of the researchers Adam Guastella, associate professor at University of Sydney in Australia.
"We found that following oxytocin treatment, parents reported their child to be more socially responsive at home," he said.
Overall, the nasal spray was well tolerated and the most common adverse events were thirst, urination and constipation.
The new results are a critical first advance in the development of medical treatments for the social deficits that characterize autism, study co-author Ian Hickie from University of Sydney noted.
The research was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.