There has been a lot of research into parasitic worms as a cure for autoimmune and allergic disorders. The idea is that the worms have evolved to survive in its host by calming the host's immune system. The chemicals released by the worms mimic cytokines that push our immune systems toward tolerance. One of those cytokines is IL-10 some secretions of the worms may mimic it.
Many researchers further believe that because all humans were universally infected with these parasites from birth that some humans have lost the ability to calm down their own immune systems without the help of these parasites. Thus we see the greatly increasing rates of autoimmune conditions, asthma, and allergy in "developed" countries where most of the population no longer carries these worms but the same is not true of "third world" countries where the rate of allergy, asthma and autoimmune is stable and few in the population suffer from these conditions and all or most people in the population are infected with worms.
There is a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, a city just a few miles south of San Diego, California, where for a few thousand dollars anyone can be infected with "clean" parasites. In this case, hookworm larva are put on the patient's arm where they burrow through the skin (slight itching sensation) enter the blood stream and eventually end up in the intestines. Many claim that their symptoms of allergy, asthma and autoimmune are greatly lessened in a couple of weeks. I cannot recommend the clinic at this time, but if you are interested here is a link to its website:
Below is a link plus the article about research in the UK to try to determine if parasitic worms can indeed turn off an autoimmune disease, in this case multiple sclerosis. Previously Dr. Joel Weinstock of formerly of the University of Iowa had successfully used pig whipworms (also an intestinal parasite) in humans as a treatment for Crohn's.
Parasitic worms may lead to treatment for multiple sclerosis
Scientists from The University of Nottingham will study the potential health benefits of parasitic worms as part of a study investigating treatments for people with the autoimmune condition multiple sclerosis (MS).
It is thought that hookworms may play a role in damping down the immune system, which is overactive in people with MS, the most disabling neurological condition in young adults.
The £400,000, three-year project funded by the MS Society, aims to determine whether infection with a small and harmless number of the worms can lead to an improvement on the severity of MS over a 12 month period.
If the trial is successful, the worms have the potential to provide a simple, cheap, natural and controllable treatment for MS.
The WIRMS (Worms for Immune Regulation in MS) study is led by Professor Cris Constantinescu and Professor David Pritchard and is a randomised, placebo controlled, phase 2 study in people with relapsing remitting MS and will be carried out at multiple centres up and down the country.
The 25 worms are microscopic and are introduced painlessly through a patch in the arm. They are then flushed out after nine months.
Professor Constantinescu, said: "People are really interested in this form of potential therapy because it's a natural treatment. It's been tested for safety and we now need to study the potential benefits and any side effects."
Jayne Spink, Director of Research at the MS Society said: "It sounds like science fiction, but it has been shown in a previous small study that people with MS who also had gut parasite infections had fewer relapses.
"Over time, parasitic worms have evolved to be able to survive an immune system attack and have been linked to a reduction in the severity of the symptoms of MS, which can be debilitating.
"If the theories can be shown to be accurate, using hookworms as a future treatment option may prove to be science fact."
MS affects more than 85,000 people in the UK and several million worldwide. Symptoms range from loss of sight and mobility, fatigue, depression and cognitive problems that often come on as attack - or relapses. There is no cure and few effective treatments.
Dorothy Sutton, 58, from Awsworth, has lived with MS for 32 years and is a Helpline volunteer for the MS Society. She said that although the treatment sounded unusual, anything that could potentially to help alleviate the symptoms of MS is a positive step.
"We have to explore every avenue of research to find treatments for MS. As long as it's safe and effective in helping the horrible symptoms, I don't think people mind where it comes from."
The Division of Clinical Neurology at The University of Nottingham's Medical School is a strong research-led unit which draws heavily on its close relationship with people with MS to inform its work.
Led by Professor Cris Constantinescu, the department features two academic and one NHS Neurology Consultants that are affiliated with the Neuroscience Directorate of Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trusts.