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Did You Get Your Serving of Worms Today?

This last month I attended the Fall ACAM (American College for the Advancement of Medicine) conference where innovative therapies are introduced. One presentation which I found very interesting was the use of intestinal helminthes (worms) to treat inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease. The researchers found that the majority of inflammatory bowel disease occurred in countries with excellent sanitary conditions. And in third world countries where sanitation was lacking this disease process was almost non-existent. So they hypothesized that it was the helminthes infections along with the other bacterial and protozoan infections stimulated the immune system in such a way to down regulate the inflammatory process. Ironically, modern hygiene eliminated the infectious agents but allowed for the emergence of inflammatory bowel disease and other immune-mediated diseases. The scientist searched for a helminth that would be safe to use in humans ie, could not be passed to close contacts, would be limited only to the intestines, and would not cause weight loss. Eventually, they found that Trichuris suis ( a worm found in pigs) matched these criteria. Eighty percent of the patients who ingested the ova of Trichuris suis had remission of their symptoms at the end of 6 months. As long as they remained on the therapy they remained symptom free. Other studies have suggested that helminthes can also be effective in treating diabetes, asthma, food allergy, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis all auto immune related diseases

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