Helminthic Therapy

I read an article about the potential use of helminthic parasites as a cure for autoimmune disease.  The idea of using parasites to cure ailments, originated from the “hygiene hypothesis”, that an increase in hygiene has led to an increase in allergies.  As a result of a loss of microbes that the immune system can attack, the immune system attacks itself.

In a University of Wisconsin study, patients who were suffering from multiple sclerosis and had lesions on their brain and spine tried the helminthic therapy in an attempt to reverse autoimmune disease. The therapy involved swallowing pig whipworm eggs every two weeks, therefore infecting themselves with the helminth!  In the beginning of the trials patients had about 6.6 lesions, and when the study ended 3 months later, patients had about 2 lesions.  Two months after stopping the therapy, there was an increase of over 5 lesions. Multiple other studies have been performed using different worms with patients have different problems ranging from Crohn’s disease to celiac disease.

Currently, the use of ingesting worms to treat autoimmune diseases is not FDA approved. Researchers still need to prove that the worms are safe, effective, and they need to find the best way to administer the therapy.  Other scientists are trying to identify the molecules or proteins from the worms that can be purified and produced into drugs.

Source: BBC Future