Autism is a developmental disease affecting as many as 1 in 300 children and is often characterized as a mental disorder originating in infancy that is associated with self-absorption, inability to interact socially, behavior, and language dysfunction (e.g. echolalia). Current theories indicate an important role of diet in the development of disease. It is thought that, as a result of maldigestion of casein and gluten, opioid-type peptides, or exorphins, are produced. Additionally, because of the time-frame of development of the disease, there has been an association with childhood vaccination.
Consequently, prevailing therapies attempt to address these causes in one, or a combination, of three ways: diet restriction (removing casein and gluten); supplementation with exogenous enzymes; and probiotic bacteria. Until recently, none of the therapies addressed the molecular mechanisms that may be at work in the development and progression of autism. This paper presents potential molecular and cellular mechanism related to autism as well as discusses their application to the treatment of the disease through the application of genomeceuticals. Additionally, a link between developmentally associated aberrant immune and inflammatory responses, and autism is suggested and explored. Copyright 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.