Worm Eggs May Heal Ulcerative Colitis
Researchers Say Case Study Shows Parasitic Worm Eggs May Have Use as Treatment
Experts: ‘Don’t Try This at Home’
The patient was lucky, Loke says, because the risks of deliberately colonizing the intestine with parasitic worms are not well understood.
“The patient reported no side effects, but that doesn’t mean this would be the case for someone else,” he says.
Joel Weinstock, MD, of Tufts University, agrees. Weinstock conducted some of the first pig whipworm research and is now involved in research to develop the pharmaceutical-grade worm treatment.
“It would not be wise for people to obtain eggs and take them the way this man did, because there is no way to be sure what you are getting,” he says. “We are developing a defined agent that can be delivered in a predictable way.”
Depending on the results of clinical trials that are now under way, a Trichuris suis egg drug could be available in a few years, he says.
Weinstock’s worm research stemmed from the observation that conditions like ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases were common in countries where infection with parasitic worms was rare and almost unheard of in countries where worm infections are endemic.
This may be because the parasites actually have a calming effect on inflammation within the body to avoid eviction from their host home.
“These organisms have co-evolved with us for hundreds of thousands of years, and they have been part of our GI tract forever,” Weinstock says.