Worms helping to treat disease.

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

Yes, worms or helminths are being used to treat disease. Most of us will have some type of worms in our microbiota, it’s normal. If you have a parasitic worm overgrowth that is not normal but maybe you have travelled somewhere bizarre or maybe you ate or drank less than clean food or water. It’s not uncommon for travelers to pick up a parasitic worm if they like to travel to more remote places. But all is not lost. There have been several studies looking at the use of helminths in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I’m sure that anyone diagnosed with MS would be happy to give it a go.

This treatment began in 1966 and has had several clinical trials with varying degrees of success (Fleming et al., 2019). Research looking at the perspective of the hygiene hypothesis suggests that microbial replacement may be a therapeutic option in disease like MS but research is ongoing. Although there has been no serious consequences or adverse reactions during these clinical trials using helminths to treat MS, the effects were modest and there were very different responses from the individual participants. The most recent clinical study in 2017 resulted in less desirable results than in previous controlled clinical trials and observational studies but there is still hope in this area. Once the confounding factors (stage of participants’ MS, duration of helminth infection and different epigenetic programming of participants etc) are better understood there may be more progress. Fingers crossed!

(Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminthic_therapy)

Ref: FLEMING, J., HERNANDEZ, G., HARTMAN, L., MAKSIMOVIC, J., NACE, S., LAWLER, B., RISA, T., COOK, T., AGNI, R., REICHELDERFER, M., LUZZIO, C., ROLAK, L., FIELD, A. & FABRY, Z. 2019. Safety and efficacy of helminth treatment in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: Results of the HINT 2 clinical trial. Mult Scler, 25, 81-91.