Helminthic Therapy and regulation of the immune system
WARNING: This topic is highly controversial and may make your stomach turn. However it is fascinating and has been a very promising treatment for many issues… read on
Helminths are parasitic animals that have evolved over 100,000,000 years to live in the intestinal track or other locations of their hosts. Colonization of humans with these organisms was nearly universal until the early 20th century. More than 1,000,000,000 people in less developed countries carry helminths even today.
What is the Hygiene Hypothesis?
In medicine, the hygiene hypothesis states a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (such as the gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system.
So what is Helminthic Therapy?
Helminthic therapy is an attempt to modulate the inflammatory response, and learned immune response by remediating the ecosystem defined by our bodies, and arose out of the hygiene hypothesis and old friend hypothesis.
These theories postulated that humans evolved with, and depended upon microbes and helminths being present in our bodies throughout life for a properly trained and regulated immune system. Helminths were quickly identified as likely having a large role because of their relative complexity, and their complex interaction with, and control over, their host’s immune system. Helminths down regulate the inflammatory and wider immune response directed at them by human hosts in order to avoid destruction by host immunity, with the happy result that inflammatory responses are reduced in terms of their variety of causation, frequency, and severity.
The treatment was developed based on an understanding gained from scientific studies showing that, while these illnesses have escalated in developed countries during the past 50-125 years, they remain much less common in parts of the world where intestinal worms are still prevalent. The idea of reintroducing helminths in an attempt to restore health is one that occurred widely and simultaneously in the 1990s if not before.In fact the first instance of someone losing their seasonal allergies was documented in 1976 in the Lancet by Turton along with the observation that this approach could lead to the control of allergy.
Helminthic therapy has already been, or is currently being studied as a treatment for a number of diseases including allergies, asthma, type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis etc. Results from the completed studies are impressive, and there are anecdotal reports and/or theoretical reasons to suggest that a number of other conditions may also respond well to helminthic therapy.
For more info check out:
Helminth–host immunological interactions: prevention and control of immune-mediated diseases An excellent summary of the science underpinning helminthic therapy.
Helminthic Therapy Science Readings A collection of links to 60 articles reflecting some of the medical science pertaining to helminthic therapy.
Facebook Helminthic Therapy Support group This is the most active HT forum. Click on the “Join Group” button to request membership.