Wilmington doctor to present findings on autism research at international conference

Updated: Apr. 29, 2019 at 4:09 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Dr. Karen Harum, founder of the Clinic for Special Children, was selected to present her research on autism at an international conference Thursday. She said her findings show some children could be diagnosed and treated earlier.

According to Harum, she and UNCW graduate students studied more than 600 patients during a 10-year span. Most of the patients have autism, but others have another developmental disorder.

They conducted imaging and/or electroencephalogram (EEG) scans of each patient’s brain. Harum looked at a specific bio-marker of permeability of the blood brain barrier. The brain, she said, has a molecular barrier protecting it, and when that barrier is broken, there’s a sign of inflammation.

She said her research found the bio-marker is elevated in most of the patients with autism. That conclusion was reached after comparing data to the published norms in other research regarding autism.

This, according to Harum, means what she said decades of research has set the foundation for: that autism is a neurological disorder.

“It is treatable and not just treatable with behavioral intervention, with early interventions, which is critically important, and which is evidence based, but with neurological treatments as well,” she said. “I think that because this condition is so complex, it does take an army of therapies surrounding them and so the behavioral therapies are excellent. They’re not going away.

“In addition, we need to think more about the neurological and inflammatory underpinnings of autism, the toxicity of that, and address those more aggressively and earlier on.”

Harum said treating autism as a neurological disorder in addition to a behavioral disorder will allow earlier medical intervention in addition to the therapies.

The International Society for Autism research conference is in Montreal Thursday through Sunday.

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