Intestinal Worms May Hold The Key to Stopping Food Allergies

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Hookworms carry serious risks and infect more than one billion people worldwide. But it turns out that this intestinal parasite may have an upside. New research suggests that intestinal worms may be useful for treating food allergies, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome, among other conditions.

In 2004, a research team at Trinity College Dublin showed mice infected with parasitic worms had a reduced risk of colitis, a gastrointestinal illness. At the same time, University of Nottingham immunobiologist David Pritchard was testing the same theory in humans, trying to reproduce what he'd observed in Papua, New Guinea. While conducting field work, he had observed that Papuans infected with hookworms were less likely to be affected by asthma, hay fever, and other auto-immune conditions. Pritchard's research team found that those with more parasites had reduced levels of allergy-related antibodies in their blood.

How Hookworms Affect Immune Response

In one way, then, the parasite's survival was actually benefiting its host. Prichard hypothesized "The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive... That's why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms." When study volunteers were given hookworm therapy, their symptoms from autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's disease and asthma were shown to be improved. Dr. Quentin Bickle, an immunologist who has designed such experiments, commented "This will be an interesting immunological journey, and early indications suggest that therapeutic dosing regimes can be developed."

What do you think of this unusual idea? Would you consider being infected with hookworms if it meant relief from food allergies?

Source: io9

By jhfuller on Thu, 09-06-12, 04:32

Hookworm treatment is an interesting concept because it treats more than food allergies. If it were only about the peanut / tree nut restricition, I'd probably opt against it. However, lately the list of things I cant eat due to cross reaction with pollen allergies is pretty large, and has been making my atsmah hard to controll. The only other broad ranging allery / astmah cure that I'm aware of is is Xolair, which while less disgusting than worms, PERMANENTLY removes your bodies ability to respond to a parasitic infection. Hookworm treatment on the other hand is fully reversible, and thus I'm currently considering it as an option.

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