Asthma, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative Colitis, rheumatoid Arthritis, and other diseases of the immune system have increased dramatically over the past few decades in the developed world. Scientists are unsure why, but one of the theories circulating is known as the hygiene hypothesis, which basically says our environment is too clean. Humans aren’t exposed to microorganisms in the environment as much as they used to be when more people farmed or were in closer proximity to animals. And, while many diseases have diminished, thanks to advances in medicine and better prevention, people aren’t exposed to bacteria that helped regulate the immune system. Proponents behind this theory postulate that this lack of exposure may, at least in part, be responsible for the surge in autoimmune diseases. This led researchers at the University of Iowa to look for a safe parasite-one that wasn’t known to cause infections or illness in humans-for therapeutic purposes. Introducing the whipworm, a pig parasite.  The whipworms lay their eggs in the human digestive tract, and appears to cause the body to produce a helpful type of immune system cells (T2 helper cytokines), as a defense against the worms. In contrast, in many autoimmune diseases, immune cells known as T1 cell cytokines proliferate and fight against the body’s cells, much like they do when fighting foreign invaders. This separate immune response from whipworms, appears to help counter the inflammatory response from diseases such as Crohn’s, etc. This treatment is radically different from current pharmacological treatment which tend to suppress the immune system, and has several undesirable side effects, like increased risk of infections, slow wound healing, increased cancer risk, diarrhea, and constipation among the more common ones. Whipworm, from pigs don’t naturally infect humans and can’t reproduce in them. Once ingested, they pass through the stomach to the intestine. There, the worms hatch and latch on, stimulating the favorable immune response-after about two weeks, they die and are excreted. There have been a few studies done to date (2005). One study examined 29 Crohn’s patients and found that after six months, 21 were considered remitted (no control group was used). The other was a study of 54 patients with ulcerative colitis. Patients with the whipworm treatment improved significantly more than those who got a placebo. There was also two studies looking at whipworm and multiple sclerosis, published last year in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal. Results showed brain lesions decreased in four of five patients three months into treatment, and rebounded two months after it ended. Studies using whipworm are either underway or being planned for the following conditions: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatric arthritis, autism, tree nut allergies, and seasonal allergies like hay fever. Sounds pretty cool using a bug to fight disease. Stay tuned for results on these studies.

Stay well, John R blilie, M.S.