Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a family of highly genetic, heterogeneous disorders characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, and by unusual repetitive behaviours. It is estimated that 1% of all children have ASD, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and paediatric AIDS combined. Thus, an estimated 3 million patients in the EU, 1.5 million in the U.S., and tens of millions worldwide are affected by ASD. In addition it is likely that this disease burden will increase as government statistics suggest that the prevalence rate of ASD is increasing by 10-17 percent annually a trend for which there is no obvious explanation. Present pharmacological approaches for the treatment of ASD are based on drugs that ameliorate behavioural symptoms with a high impact on individual functioning. That is, current treatments are aimed at treating co-morbid symptoms such as seizures, tics, irritability, obsessive-compulsive or hyperactive behaviours. To date, however, no medication is available that can change the core symptoms of ASD and improve the long-term outcome.