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UC WormsCould being too spic and span hurt us?

Possibly. Studies show kids raised with pets face lower allergy risks while another showed, Ethiopians infected with hookworms weren’t as likely to have asthma.

Now studies are looking at a link between inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, and helminths, or parasitic worms.

Today, most cases of IBD are in developed countries where few people have worms in their gut because of our sanitary food and water.

So, could the absence of helminths be a cause of IBD? Well, consider the “Old Friends” hypothesis which suggests because helminths had infected humans for thousands of years, our immune system evolved to depend on them. Their presence taught the immune system not to overreact.

Without helminths, could the immune system become overactive causing disorders such as ulcerative colitis, a type of IBD? Tufts University is researching this question and whether introducing helminths into the body is a cure.

Interestingly, a 35 old man with ulcerative colitis self experimented after hearing about the research. His disease was severe. Instead of having his colon removed, he chose to ingest fifteen hundred whipworm eggs.

Amazingly, the symptoms went away.

Three years later they returned, and a colonoscopy showed the worm count had fallen so the man swallowed another two thousand eggs. As far as we know, his symptoms are under control.

Researchers studying him found the worm infection led his body to produce more of a molecule called interleukin-22. This molecule stimulates the production of a protective mucous which may form a barrier in the gut keeping out harmful bacteria, but it’s missing in ulcerative colitis patients.

Yet, it may have been restored by worms in the 35 year old male.

Keep in mind, this is just one case. Infection with worms has its own complications. However, if studies prove this therapy works, all patients may have to get over, is living with worms.

For more information…

"For the good of the gut: can parasitic worms treat autoimmune diseases?" Helminths could suppress immune disorders by promoting healthy mucus production in the intestine.
"In 2007, parasite immunologist P'ng Loke sat down for lunch at a University of California, San Francisco, cafeteria with an inquisitive man who had called him earlier that week. Their chosen topic of conversation would deprive many people of an appetite, but the scientist and his guest shared an intellectual hunger for a stomach-churning subject: gut worms—specifically, tiny worm-like parasitic organisms called helminths that live nestled in the gastrointestinal tracts of their hosts." Jabr, Ferris. (2010). Scientific American. Dec 1. More »

Helminths and mucosal immune modulation. Weinstock J.V. (2006).
NY Academy of Science article describing some of the scientific evidence that has documented the role of parasitic worms in immune regulation in the gut. "Geographic and ethnic variations in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease frequency suggest that environmental factors affect disease risk. Prevention of parasitic worms (helminths) through improved hygiene may be one factor leading to the increased disease prevalence. Helminths alter host mucosal and systemic immunity. Animals exposed to helminths are protected from experimental colitis and other immunological diseases, and helminthic colonization can be used to treat ongoing murine and human disease." Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1072: 356-364. More »

Parasitic Worms Ease IBD May Reduce Overactive Immune Response Behind Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis
By Sid Kirchheimer; WebMD Health News
Older report on the value of treating IBD with parasitic worms. "The thought of swallowing live worm eggs may turn your stomach, but that's exactly what researchers say may safely relieve the abdominal distress caused by inflammatory bowel disease." More »