ASD in Developing CountriesAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) awareness and subsequent treatment are much lower in developing countries than they are in the United States. Early intervention is crucial to treating this condition. However, in countries with low levels of awareness and limited resources, many children do not receive the attention they need to mitigate the effects of their ASD. A new prescription drug called bumetanide shows positive results in reducing core ASD symptoms. It might be a promising way to treat children with ASD in developing countries.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder that causes developmental delays due to atypical neurological development. In those affected by ASD, delays are identifiable in early childhood and persist throughout the lifespan, varying in intensity based on the severity of the disorder.

Some symptoms of ASD are atypical eye contact, repetitive behaviors and the inability to consistently understand social cues. They also include the difficulty in communication and cognitive impairment.

Many people with ASD are smart individuals capable of independently living. However, sometimes, the disorder prevents people from properly functioning or taking care of themselves. To ensure people with ASD are as successful as possible, doctors encourage early intervention that helps children learn skills to combat ASD. Intervention strategies teach these children how to communicate their thoughts and understand what others are thinking, as well as other general coping skills that offset the difficulties of ASD. The earlier these skills can be learned, the more beneficial and effective they are.

ASD in Developing Countries

ASD occurs worldwide, but many countries have strong stigmas against it that discourage openly treating or even talking about ASD. Additionally, there is a large deficit of information about ASD in developing countries. In many of these countries, doctors are not easily accessible. Even when they are, they are not properly trained on how to treat ASD. Thus, a large number of children and people in general with ASD remain undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.

85% of people with ASD are estimated to live in developing countries. As a result, organizations such as the Global Autism Project strive to raise awareness of ASD. The Global Autism Project is in the process of training teachers to work with those with ASD in developing countries. This provides important tools for destigmatizing and diagnosing ASD.

However, studies have identified that the best intervention strategy currently obtainable is to provide information about behavioral treatment to family members. Providing them with this information allows them to implement the treatment. While this holds the potential for success, it has also been found that this is extremely hard to consistently execute in families that are suffering from poverty.

Bumetanide: A New Drug to Reduce ASD Symptoms

There are countries that lack these resources to holistically work with children with ASD. As a result, a new drug called bumetanide could improve symptoms. It could also work as a treatment system for those who lack other resources and options.

Bumetanide works to stabilize the ratio of two important neurotransmitters: GABA and glutamate. A study observed the effects of this drug. When bumetanide was implemented consistently in three to six-year-olds, the severity of their ASD symptoms declined. For example, many showed improved eye contact and cognitive processing. There are other prescription drugs that have been used to treat ASD, but they all cause multiple and sometimes severe side effects as well. Bumetanide had few side effects, with none proving to be severe.


The improved ratio of GABA to glutamate aids children with ASD in learning. It helps promote the development of healthy brain pathways. Forming these beneficial pathways early on can hold lifelong benefits by permanently improving brain development. Thus, bumetanide can serve as an accessible treatment for children with ASD in developing countries. It creates lasting improvements without requiring continuous doctor appointments and therapy sessions.

Hannah Allbery
Photo: Flickr