LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Currently, one in 44 children in the U.S. has autism and that number continues to increase. Researchers are still working on the why while finding new ways to treat the disorder.

There is now a clinical trial happening in the valley for teenagers.

Las Vegas is just one of 25 cities across the U.S. and abroad, chosen for this experimental study, which is specifically looking at managing irritability that can often accompany autism.

It’s a decision every parent has to make — what’s best for your child? For Heather-Lei Ambos, it’s not an easy one.

“I don’t want to put my 8-year-old on an anti-psychotic if I don’t have to,” she said.

Her son has autism.

“A lot of sensory issues and when he gets overloaded he lashes out … he’ll scream. Sometimes he’ll hit,” Ambos said. “We’ve had to install special locks, dementia locks to keep him from being able to go outside when he’s in a mood because he will scale the fence.”

Right now, there aren’t a lot of treatment options.

“Of the patients that have autism, probably about 20% have irritability and aggression. The irritability may include biting, kicking, screaming, tantrums,” said Dr. Ann Childress, MD, adjunct associate professor at UNLV and Touro University. 

That’s where AB-2004 comes in. It targets a bacteria in the gut that researchers say may be responsible for some of that bad behavior. The drug which is sprinkled on food is not absorbed into the bloodstream.

“It binds those bacterial toxins,” Dr. Childress said.

She has done about 200 clinical trials and she’s now looking for teens ages 13 to 17 to participate in this one.

“It’s a couple of thousand dollars worth of medical care that’s free,” she said.

It’s a double-blind study which means some teens will get the medication while others will receive a placebo.

Dr. Childress said the initial results are promising.

Ambos’ son isn’t old enough to take part in the study but she’s hopeful AB-2004 is in their future because as her son grows and gets stronger it’s been more difficult.

“Even if he can’t grow up to be functional enough to live on his own, we’d like to keep him home. And with aggression, physical aggression, that’s not going to be possible,” she said.

The study is eight weeks long and includes six doctor visits.

To find out if your teen qualifies, we have a link with more information.