Intestinal Worms and IBD

I love stories like this… from the New Scientist, Diet of Worms Can Cure Bowel Disease. Studies have found that regular doses of pig whipworms can drastically relieve the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Chron’s. Hats off to the brave volunteers for the first studies, who not knowing if this was going to work of not, intentially submitted their GI tracts to intestinal parasites.


The trials follow the success of a pilot study, revealed by New Scientist in 1999. Weinstock came up with the idea of using worms to treat IBD after noticing that the sharp rise in the disease over the past 50 years in western countries coincided with a fall in infections by parasites such as roundworms and human whipworms. IBD is still rare in developing countries where parasitic infections remain common.

Weinstock’s theory is that our immune systems have evolved to cope with the presence of such parasites, and can become overactive without them.

A German company called BioCure is supplying the worms, along with leeches and maggots for wound healing. Now that would be an interesting company to market! Bluefly maggots were used regularly years ago before antibiotics to help heal wounds more quickly by eating up dead flesh. They went out of favor after WWII but recently have been making a comeback as strains of infecting bacteria have become more and more resistent to antibiotics. My dad who is now in his seventies remembers this practice as normal when he was younger. Isn’t it weird the way we’ve become so easily grossed-out by nature even when it is clearly beneficial?

Links:
Parasitic Worms Ease IBD – article from WebMD Medical News