London: A drug for autism has shown promise in easing its distressing symtoms and could pave the way for its effective treatment, say researchers.
In a clinical trial, researchers found that the drug, Arbaclofen, helped sufferers better their social skills and reduce tantrums.
They could also make eye contact more frequently and become less irritable, reports the Daily Mail.
Craig Erickson from the Indiana University School of Medicine,US, who helped run the trial, explained: "We observed marked improvement in the majority of patients treated in the study including reductions in agitation and tantrums."
"This work will potentially open up a door in treating disorders that has, until recently, been firmly shut."
The severity in autism ranges dramatically, but all sufferers experience problems with communication, imagination and their social relationships.
Although doctors prescribe anti-depressants and anti-psychotics for particular symptoms, there are no specialist autism drugs, according to the journal New Scientist.
Arbaclofen is intended to rebalance the brain chemistry of those with autism.
It was tested on a group of autistic children aged between six and 17, over eight weeks. They suffered few side-effects and by the end of the trial were calmer and more sociable.
"We observed marked improvement in the majority of patients treated in the study, including reductions in agitation and tantrums. They made eye contact more easily and were less anxious than at the start," said Erickson.
Randall Carpenter of the Seaside Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US which has developed the drug, said: "We are trying to normalise signalling functions within the brain."