A groundbreaking new vaccine developed at the University of Guelph is providing hope for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.

Researchers at the school say the vaccine may help with some of the gastro-intestinal issues commonly suffered by autistic children.

More than 90 per cent of children with autism spectrum disorders suffer from severe, chronic gastro-intestinal pain.

“If we at least control diarrhea or whatever disease this clostridia causes in autistic children, any gut problems, it’s a benefit,” says Guelph chemistry professor Mario Monteiro.

Working with doctoral student Brittany Pequegnat, Monteiro has developed what is believed to be the first vaccine that specifically targets the illness-causing bacteria.

“They recognize this specific clostridia and they eliminate it,” explains Monteiro.

The vaccine would be given in one or two initial injections, which would be enough to leave bacteria-fighting antibodies in the patient’s system.

Researchers believe eliminating that bacteria and its associated gastro-intestinal problems may help improve other symptoms of autism, but it’s far from a certainty.

Still, Amanda Bell, who has three autistic children, says she’s encouraged by news of the vaccine.

“I think it’s a good sign, a positive step in the right direction,” she says.

All three of Bell’s kids frequently deal with upset stomachs and bowel irregularities.

The vaccine still has to go through clinical trials and testing procedures, a process which could take more than 10 years, before being available to the public.