Help: Helminthic Therapy? The Worm!

Hi,

First post, so here goes.

I have come across a thing called Heminthic Therapy, and it has spiked my interest (and no small level of revulsion). Basically it involves infecting oneself with a small number of gastrointestinal hookworms or whipworms. For their own protection, the worms secrete a substance which dulls the human immune system. Claimed side effects of this are many and eye opening. No more allergies (I am personally a heavy sufferer), including hayfever, dust and athsma.  More impressively, there are also claims that auto-immune diseases are also improved, including MS, Crohn’s and IBS. Creepy but wow.

Firstly, let me point out that I normally react to this kind of thing on a “too good to be true” basis. However I have been pointed to some seemingly robust academic studies carried out by Nottingham University. Clearly these studies are limited in scope, would be classed as very early clinical research and their conclusions are accordingly circumspect. However, they have clearly state a link between the presence of hookworms and reduced instances of allergic reaction. Also, they are planning a further study on the link between worms and MS.

This has also been featured on the BBC, to the extent that one of the presenters on a Pop science show “Bang goes the theory” gratefully consumed whipworms orally, to “cure” his dust allergy. The “results” are in the pipeline.

Beyond this, there is an individual who was part of an initial Nottingham study, who managed to source new worms to self infect after the study, so happy he was with the improvement during the study, (the study concluded with a flush out of the offending/wonderful worms). This individual is gushing about the marked improvements in his life since he was reinfected. While I do not want to contradict him, I am aware that anecdotal accounts of the benefits of any new wonder treatment are often compelling, as his certainly is.

Finally, there exist companies who offer these treatments. Clearly they hold strong views on the efficacy of their product. Again, I am not suggesting that they are wrong, as I have no evidence to that effect.

That in fact is the point of this blog. I am looking for a counter argument. I acknowledge that clinical trials are at a very early stage. But there must be some research on the negative effects of infestation of a small number of GI worms (specifically hookworms or whip worms). Also, the various sources insist that likelihood of propagation of the infection is extremely low and that the worms cannot reproduce in the GI tract. These claims seem valid an easily testable, so I am sure there exists published material on this.

However what I am really looking for is anecdotal accounts of UNSUCESSFUL cases. These could include: didn’t work (ailment specific) or bad side effects or both.

So three questions:

Are there publication countering the claims of Nottingham?

For the epidemiologists out there: are the claims of no secondary infection risk, and inability to reproduce in GI valid?

Does anyone know of anyone else (personally, by online diatribe or published) who has tried this therapy and had a neutral or negative outcome?

Thank you

cianmh

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