Intestinal worms get another boost as a way to modulate improperly functioning immune systems. Allergies, asthma and autoimmune all are possible candidates for immune dysfunctions that may be treatable with intestinal worms. Here is the UARL of the latest article:
Gut worms may protect against house-dust mite allergy
Mon, 28 Sep 2009 12:35:00 GMT
A study conducted in Vietnam has added further weight to the view that parasitic gut worms, such as hookworm, could help in the prevention and treatment of asthma and other allergies.
Led by Dr Carsten Flohr, a Clinical Scientist from The University of Nottingham, and Dr Luc Nguyen Tuyen from the Khanh Hoa Provincial Health Service in central Vietnam, the study is the largest double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial to date looking at the potential links between hookworm and other gut worm infections and allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema.
Thanks to improved hygiene practices parasitic worms have been mostly eradicated among human populations living in developed countries. However, experts believe that over millions of years of co-evolution worms have found methods to dampen down host immune responses to prolong their own survival inside humans. This relationship seems to have become so intertwined that without gut worms or other parasites, our immune system can become unbalanced, which in turn could contribute to the development of asthma and other allergies. At the same time, it is important to remember that gut parasites can cause severe disease and are a major cause of iron-deficiency anaemia in developing countries.
Dr Flohr’s study was conducted in a rural area of central Vietnam where two out of three children have hookworm and other gut parasite infections and where allergies are extremely rare. More than 1,500 schoolchildren aged 6-17 took part.
The team investigated whether repeated tablet treatments to clear the body of gut worms made it more likely for children to develop allergic conditions. While the treatment did not demonstrate an effect on asthma or eczema, the treated children had a significantly increased risk of having a positive allergy skin test to house-dust mites and cockroach. This suggests that gut worms have the potential to tone down human immune responses and so further research is now needed to identify precisely how gut worm infection can prevent allergic sensitisation.
Dr Carsten Flohr of The University of Nottingham adds: “The next step is to understand exactly how and when gut parasites programme the human immune system in a way that protects against allergic sensitisation, and for such studies, follow-up from birth will be essential.”
As up to 80 per cent of people with asthma also have allergies to house-dust mites and other environmental allergens, additional research in this area could aid the creation of new treatments that work in the same way as gut parasites, by dampening down or rebalancing the immune system so that the body does not respond to allergens and trigger asthma attacks.
Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK, says: “Asthma affects more than five million people in the UK, with a person being admitted to hospital every seven minutes following an asthma attack. The prospects of further studies in this area are therefore very exciting as we could see groundbreaking treatments for asthma and other allergies developed as a result. It’s now vital that we see more funding being invested in this important area of research, so that we can increase our understanding of the link between gut parasites and the development of allergies from birth.”
Co-applicants on the Asthma UK research grant that funded the work were Professors John Britton, David Pritchard, and Hywel Williams. The Nottingham team collaborated with researchers from the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programme at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, where Dr Flohr was based for his work. Additional funding was received through the Bastow Award from the Special Trustees for Nottingham University Hospitals. Dr Flohr’s salary was provided by University College, University of Oxford, for two years and by the Wellcome Trust UK for a further nine months.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.
Asthma UK is one of the major funders of asthma research in the UK. Asthma UK is the charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the 5.4 million people in the UK whose lives are affected by asthma. For up-to-date news on asthma, information and publications, visit the Asthma UK website asthma.org.uk. For independent and confidential advice on asthma, call the Asthma UK Adviceline, which is staffed by asthma nurse specialists. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on +44 (0)800 121 62 44.