Microscopic Hookworm

Microscopic Hookworm, Courtesy CDC

Yes….you read it right..WORM!  Some researchers wonder whether the hookworm — a parasite– could be a treatment and possibly heal people with celiac disease.  New research being conducted by doctors in Australia  are conducting a study on how the hookworm could help people with celiac disease.

ABC News (in Australia — not to be confused with ABC News in the United States) reported today that 20 people in a medical trial have been “deliberately infected with hookworm – a parasite disappearing from wealthy Western cultures because of a heavy emphasis on cleanliness.”  Gastroenterologist James Daveson from Brisbane, Australia described to the repoter why they’re trying this method and what the early results from the trial are telling researchers.

“We found patients who had hookworms on board did very well in terms of their sensitivity to gluten exposure…We theink that the parasites alter the immune system in the body.  We think they’re supposed to be there.  They enter through the skin and end up in the small bowel and that transit is protected.  And we think we’ve co-evolved with them over millions of years and have a synergistic relationship with them  and by removing them, which we’ve done over the last two to three generations, we’ve increased our risk of auto-immune diseases.” — Dr. James Daveson

The story mentioned other research about how hookworms can help people with other autoimmune disorders, like those with asthma and multiple sclerosis. To back this claim up, I found two articles — one on the treatment of asthma and allergies with hookworm and another on the possible treatment for MS using hookworms — And if nothing else, you should at least go to the asthma link just to look at this crazy picture of what presumably is a hookworm!  But I digress.  Dr. Daveson thinks it now could be celiac’s turn for hookworm.  “The body seems to want to get [hookworms] into the small bowel, which is in line with what we’re saying that these parasites work synergistically with our immune system.”

The study will begin taking on additional patients next week for the study. But don’t expect a cure anytime soon.  As the story said “…it’s expected to be many years before hookworms become an accepted treatment for auto-immune illnesses like celiac disease.”

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2 Responses to “Worming their Way to a Celiac Treatment?”

  1. Don’t anybody tell my son – at least not yet. He nearly passed out in his environmental science class today in response to the teacher’s graphic descriptions of invasive parasites. They called the paramedics!

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