Worm Eggs May Heal Ulcerative Colitis
Researchers Say Case Study Shows Parasitic Worm Eggs May Have Use as Treatment
Egg Treatment Led to Remission continued...
He first contacted Loke in 2006, while Loke was working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.
“He was in full remission at the time, and his main incentive was to stay in remission,” Loke says.
The man agreed to a series of colonoscopies over the next several years, and Loke and colleagues analyzed blood and tissue samples during this time.
What they found was that the worms seemed to stimulate the production of mucus in the gut. The mucus contained a large number of T cells that produced a protein that is important in healing, known as interleukin 22.
Loke and colleagues believe that the mucus is produced in an effort to expel the worms from the gut. Instead of doing this it heals the lesions caused by the disease.
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.