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Opening a Can of Worms

A father’s determination to help his son resulted in an experimental treatment for autism that uses roundworms to modulate inflammatory immune responses. Can the worms be used to treat other diseases?

By | February 1, 2011

Nematode parasite, Trichuris suis, found in the intestines of pigs

In 2005 the Johnson family was at its breaking point. Lawrence, the family’s 13-year-old son, was diagnosed with autism at age two and a half, and his parents had valiantly coped with his illness for the ensuing decade.

Throughout his childhood, Lawrence’s disorder progressed along the typical path: he would not engage in pretend play like other children, he repeated himself incessantly, his interests were very restricted, and he was frequently agitated and anxious.

By his teenage years, Lawrence had veered into the dangerous realm of self abuse. He smashed his head against the wall dozens of times a day. He bit himself until he bled. He gouged at his eyes and tore at his face. A normal school experience was virtually impossible. He couldn’t walk a single block from the family’s Brooklyn brownstone without kicking and screaming when a traffic light changed at the wrong moment or streets were crossed in an unacceptable order. “If people haven’t actually experienced those symptoms of autism, they’re the killer,” says Stewart, Lawrence’s father. “They’re the things that destroy families.”

Putting these bits of information together, Stewart wrote a short review paper and presented it to Hollander. His central hypothesis was that parasitic worm infection would modulate Lawrence’s immune system and calm inflammation that was causing his disruptive behaviors.

“I had never heard of it before,” Hollander, now at the Montefiore Medical Center University Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, admits. “It was a new thought. I looked into the literature and there did seem to be data supporting the basic hypothesis and some data in other conditions in terms of efficacy.” Hollander was impressed with Stewart’s research and agreed to help him obtain sterile, treatment-grade T. suis eggs that were being grown and tested in Europe by the German company OvaMed.

Stewart and Hollander were reassured by the behavior of T. suis in the human gut. Because they have evolved to infect the guts of pigs, the worms only colonize humans in a very limited fashion, are unable to reproduce, and are flushed out of the system after a couple of weeks. Like most internal parasites, T. suis cannot complete its entire life cycle in only one host, and in the environment the ova require a 3- to 6-week incubation in moist soil to mature, making inadvertent spread of the parasites to Stewart, his wife, or daughter unlikely.

Slideshow: The Treatment Cycle

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After obtaining permission to administer the treatment from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under “compassionate use” rules, Stewart and Hollander navigated customs protocols to import OvaMed’s formulation of T. suis ova, called TSO. They had Lawrence drink a solution containing 1,000 of the roundworm eggs every two weeks for 5 months beginning in early 2006.

The results were beyond disappointing. Lawrence’s aggressive and agitated behaviors abated for just four days during the entire 20-week treatment period. “There were only those four days,” Stewart recalls. “Each day subsequent, he went right back to his old self.”

Stewart started looking at residential schools where Lawrence could live under the constant supervision of healthcare professionals. “We couldn’t live like that anymore. We were at our wit’s end,” he says.

But when Stewart contacted OvaMed’s president Detlev Goj to inform him of the dispiriting results, his hope was renewed. Goj told him that Lawrence’s response to the low dose of worm eggs—1,000 ova every two weeks as opposed to 2,500 in the promising Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis trials—actually fit the profile of a potential responder. He recommended that they give Lawrence 2,500 eggs every two weeks for a period and see what happened. Stewart relayed the information to Hollander, and they prepared to conduct another trial, this time at the full dose.

The Iowa studies

The research that initially stoked Stewart’s hopes for treating his son using parasitic worms was conducted a few years earlier in the University of Iowa lab of Joel Weinstock, who is now head of gastroenterology at Tufts University in Boston. Weinstock, along with his colleagues Robert Summers and David Elliot, hit upon the idea of treating inflammatory bowel diseases by infecting patients with roundworms after finding epidemiological evidence linking worms and autoimmune diseases.

The Iowa researchers knew that when people moved from less developed to more developed countries, the rates of autoimmune diseases rose in the immigrant population. For example, in populations moving in the 1970s and 1980s from India, a country with high incidences of worm infection, to the United Kingdom, where such infections are rarer, the incidence of Crohn’s disease increased rapidly.2 And in the 1930s and 1940s epidemiologists had found virtually no occurrence of bowel disorders in children living in the rural southern states of the United States. Because pig farming was done on a regional basis and many rural dwellers lived in close proximity to their livestock, worm infections were much more common outside urban areas. As nationwide programs were launched to tamp down worm infections among rural populations and migration to urban areas increased, autoimmune diseases became more prevalent.

Weinstock and his colleagues hypothesized that rather than the presence of some environmental factor leading to the uptick in certain autoimmune disease, perhaps the absence of something was to blame. Maybe steering clear of worm infections was also robbing individuals living in industrialized nations or developed urban centers of crucial immune-system modulation that had arisen through millennia of coevolution with these parasites, they reasoned. “This could be a reason why, if people are infected naturally in a developing country, they might not develop inflammatory bowel disease or other immune diseases,” says Robert Summers.

They settled on the porcine whipworm to test their hypothesis, and administered the helminths to a group of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients.

In an open-label pilot study, four patients with Crohn’s disease and three with ulcerative colitis ingested T. suis ova. Symptoms improved in all seven patients.3 In a larger trial in 2005, nearly 80 percent of 29 patients suffering from Crohn’s disease reported significant alleviation of their symptoms after 24 weeks of treatment.4 The team reported more modest but still promising results in a study testing the treatment on patients with ulcerative colitis.5

The Iowa team suspected that their research would be ridiculed, discounted, or followed up on by their colleagues. “We knew that it could be totally ignored, or it may get some real conversation, because anything new makes people talk,” remembers Weinstock.

Though scientists were indeed intrigued by the Iowa research, it took Stewart Johnson’s happening upon the findings and applying them to the treatment of his autistic son for helminthic therapy to really sprout wings.

Second time’s a charm?

The Johnson family anxiously awaited the effects of the full dose of TSO on Lawrence’s violent behavior. Within 10 weeks of the higher-dose treatment, the autistic boy stopped smashing his head against walls. He stopped gouging at his eyes. The paralysis and frustration that held him and his family prisoners in their own home lifted. The freak outs ceased. “It wasn’t gradations,” remembers Stewart, who had always kept meticulous notes on Lawrence’s disorder and the interventions they had attempted. “It just went away. All these behaviors just disappeared.” Elated, Stewart called Lawrence’s doctor, Eric Hollander. “He was stunned, because all of that behavior set was gone,” Stewart says. “He was speechless, as I was.”

Hollander and Stewart recognized the potential importance of Lawrence’s reaction to TSO, and after a year or so of closely monitoring the boy’s progress, the researcher asked Stewart to present their findings to his colleagues at the Seaver Autism Center during its annual conference in 2007. Stewart did so, and the team at the research facility, one of the most prominent in the nation, was intrigued. “They were very impressed,” Stewart recalls. “It was very well received.”

The Seaver Center researchers were so impressed, in fact, that they agreed to use the case of Lawrence Johnson as the basis to apply for a more formal clinical trial testing TSO in other autistic patients with severely disruptive and aggressive behaviors. With Stewart’s help, the team submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA to import and administer TSO for 16 weeks to 10 adult autistic patients with symptoms similar to Lawrence’s.

According to Alex Kolevzon, clinical director of the Seaver Center and the lead researcher of the TSO study, it took some convincing both at the FDA and within the Seaver Center’s own review board to launch the trial. “What I had to convince them of was that we were going to be very safe with using this medicine,” he says. “Everybody who encountered this held it up to a lot of scrutiny.”

Recently, the FDA and Mount Sinai’s internal review board were persuaded to allow the trial on adults to go forward, and Kolevzon and his colleagues are now recruiting 10 patients with the right behavioral profile for the study. Hopes are high for TSO’s potential and for the study’s ability to shed light on the role of immune system functioning in autism. While it may be that TSO will be a benefit, Kolevzon says, “the broader hope is that we’re going to learn something about how the immune system responds to TSO that may lead to other, more targeted treatments.”

Using worms to battle other illnesses

Kolevzon’s group at the Seaver Center isn’t the only team of researchers pursuing the treatment approach that Weinstock and his Iowa colleagues launched—and autism isn’t the only disease that scientists are now targeting with the use of parasitic worms. John Fleming, a University of Wisconsin neurologist, is investigating TSO’s safety in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, testing the treatment as an IND under FDA’s supervision. Fleming was, in fact, the first researcher to start the IND application process, and Kolevzon credits him for laying the groundwork with the FDA that made it possible to get the autism trial started. But Fleming, like Kolevzon, says that getting the FDA to allow him to proceed with the studies was no small task. Fleming’s study, which will treat 18 MS patients with the helminth ova, was approved in a grant from the MS Society in 2004. It wasn’t until last year that the FDA finally allowed him to proceed with the trial under IND rules. “We spent long years in a regulatory wilderness until we got FDA approval,” Fleming says.

Fleming himself needed some convincing when he initially came across the idea. “When I first heard of this I thought it implausible,” he admits. “The evidence from the people in Iowa and thinking about the science behind what they did gradually had an impact on me, and I said, ‘This is plausible and it ought to be tested.’”

While he was awaiting the FDA’s approval to proceed with the helminth studies, Fleming learned of a study in Argentina in which 12 MS patients with naturally occurring helminth infections who were followed for four and a half years showed significantly less neurological damage when compared to 12 MS patients without infections.6 That study “certainly gave at least some hope that the helminth treatment in inflammatory bowel diseases could be applied in multiple sclerosis as well,” according to Fleming. He adds that he is still recruiting patients for the phase I trial.

Another researcher, Harvard pathologist Marie-Hélène Jouvin, has also convinced the FDA to allow her to proceed with trials of TSO, in her case testing its safety in five patients who suffer from severe food allergies, which are caused by overzealous inflammatory responses to particular environmental triggers. Like her colleagues working with autism and MS, Jouvin holds hope that helminth infection will eventually open new treatment options for people with food allergies as well as a host of other diseases. “From what we know from epidemiological studies with helminth infections and from animal studies and from the clinical studies done by Joel Weinstock,” she says, “it is clear that there is a good chance that TSO could fine tune or modulate inflammation/immunity in many diseases where it is now clear that inflammation/immunity plays a critical role.” Also like her colleagues, Jouvin is still in the process of recruiting patients. As of last November, she had recruited only one.

How do worms work?

The three phase I clinical trials underway in the United States using helminth eggs are, by regulation, designed as safety studies, simply testing the suitability of introducing the parasites into the guts of patients. But given the anecdotal evidence that T. suis infestations in humans have virtually no negative side effects, the underlying scientific push is to understand exactly how the worms are acting to modulate immune responses that lie at the root of certain autism symptoms, inflammatory bowel diseases, and food allergies, among other autoimmune diseases.

Science is uncovering more of the intricacies of the human immune system every day. Ten years ago, prevailing thought on adaptive or acquired immunity held that two types of T helper cells—Th1 and Th2—maintained an equilibrium in the body: Th1 cells spur the bactericidal tendencies of macrophages and ramp up cellular immunity against bacteria and viruses, while Th2 cells induce immune system changes that target parasites, toxins, and allergens. From this model scientists predicted that if parasites like intestinal worms could activate a Th2-type response, the Th1 response, which is usually implicated in autoimmune diseases, would be suppressed. In recent years, however, this simplistic model has fallen out of favor.

Treatment-grade Trichuris suis ova
Ovamed

As more is learned about the complexity of immune responses and more lymphocyte subpopulations come to light, recent theories point to a modulation of T regulatory cells—which function to suppress activation of the immune system and prevent it from attacking the body’s own tissues—by worm infection. “The thought is that the helminth can induce T regulatory cells initially in the gut,” says John Fleming, speaking about the worm’s potential effect in MS patients, “but somehow this changes the whole inflammatory milieu and this translates to less inflammation in the brain.” He cautions, however, that other possible mechanisms could be at play.

Clues to the mysterious mechanism behind the ability of parasitic worms to seemingly calm the immune system also come in the form of case reports from patients with concomitant worm infections and autoimmune diseases. For example, a team of researchers from New York and San Francisco recently found elevated levels of T helper (Th2) cells in the intestinal epithelium of an ulcerative colitis patient who had infected himself with Trichuris trichiura, the human whipworm. At spots in his intestine where the colitis was clearing up, T helper cells initiated the production of a protein called interleukin-22, a cytokine involved in mucosal healing, while genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism were upregulated.7

Working with mice, Joel Weinstock and colleagues at Tufts have found a tantalizing new piece of the puzzle. In a recent study using a mouse model of colitis, they found that dendritic cells, which process and present antigens to other immune cells and in this case were functioning in innate immunity, may be just as important as T cells—the principle agents of adaptive immunity—in driving the autoimmune attack on intestinal tissues that is characteristic of colitis. The researchers found that infection with the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus could reverse colitis by interacting with dendritic cells to influence pathogenic T cells.8

While the complicated mechanisms behind the effect of worm infections on the human immune system will come to light only after many years of careful study, the fact that the FDA has sanctioned preliminary trials is something of a watershed moment. The three ongoing clinical trials with TSO represent the first time that the FDA has allowed studies of a whole-organism therapeutic agent.

Although the FDA cannot legally comment on unapproved products, an agency spokesperson did write that, “The FDA does recognize the potential importance of alternative therapies, including certain intestinal worms,” in an e-mail to The Scientist.

One happy ending

Meanwhile, Lawrence Johnson, now 20 years old, continues to respond positively to treatment with T. suis eggs. Because the parasites are flushed from his system regularly, he takes a dose of TSO as his father sees the need, roughly every two weeks. Though this costs Stewart and his family about 600 Euros a month, he says the treatment has changed their lives and that it’s well worth the price. “There’re no words to describe it. It’s like giving me my son back,” he says. “Or in many ways, like giving me a son that I didn’t ever have.”

Since seeing the positive effects of TSO on Lawrence’s worst behaviors, Stewart has launched a Web site, autismtso.com, to share his family’s experience and inform other parents of current research and the progress of the clinical trial at the Seaver Center. He also wrote a chapter about his experience with TSO treatment in the recently published Textbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders.9

Even given the remarkable contributions he’s made in the field of helminthic therapy, Stewart remains realistic about his continued contribution. “Am I the one who’s going to find out the underlying mechanism by which helminths interact with the immune system?” he asks. “No. I am definitely not that person. But I got us to this point, and now hopefully others can figure that out, and hopefully there is a connection and this will help other people.”

1. D.L. Vargas et al., “Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism,” Annal Neurol, 57:67-81, 2005.
2. V. Jayanthi et al., “Epidemiology of Crohn’s disease in Indian migrants and the indigenous population in Leicestershire,” Q J Med 82:125-38, 1992.
3. R.W. Summers et al., “Trichuris suis seems to be safe and possibly effective in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease,” Am J Gastroenterol, 98:2034-41, 2003.
4. R.W. Summers et al., “Trichuris suis therapy in Crohn’s disease,” Gut, 54:87-90, 2005. Free F1000 Evaluation
5. R.W. Summers et al., “Trichuris suis therapy for active ulcerative colitis: a randomized controlled trial,” Gastroenterology, 128:825-832, 2005.
6. J. Correale, M. Farez, “Association between parasite infection and immune responses in multiple sclerosis,” Ann Neurol, 61:97-108, 2007.
7. M.J. Broadhurst et al., “IL-22+ CD4+ T cells are associated with therapeutic Trichuris trichiura infection in an ulcerative colitis patient,” Sci Transl Med 2:60ra88, 2010.
8. L. Hang et al., “Heligmosomoides polygyrus infection can inhibit colitis through direct interaction with innate immunity,” J Immunol, 185:3184-89, 2010.
9. Textbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders, E. Hollander, A. Kolevzon, J.T. Coyle, eds, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2010.

 

 

Correction (2nd February): When originally posted, this article conflated irritable bowel syndrome with inflammatory bowel diseases. The Scientist regrets the error.

 

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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

January 31, 2011

I am a professor doing research (and teaching) in consumer health as well as health information systems, but I'm also the parent of a teenager diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease at 13, so I read this with interest on several levels. This was a well-done article--thank you! There are a couple of inaccuracies which might prove confusing to consumers and patients who will be looking for more on this topic, so I want to correct them here: 1. There is a reference to "PubMed and Medline" as websites offering published literature on promising treatments. In fact, this is a semi-redundancy -- PubMed is the U.S. federal government's portal to numerous useful databases of different kinds, including the bibliographic database called Medline. Both are products of the National Library of Medicine. You can read more about PubMed here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/pubmed.html and Medline here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/medline.html. These are not quite sources of published literature; Medline will provide a small amount of full-text articles for free, and links to e-journal sites such as Public Library of Science and PubMed Central, but is not a full-text database; medical journals are among the most expensive on the planet and their content is seldom available completely for free. However, you can identify useful citations using Medline and bring them to your public librarian, who can help you find the best way to obtain the entire article. My second correction is this: The author makes frequent reference to Crohn's and ulcerative colitis as "irritable bowel diseases". In fact they are inflammatory bowel diseases. The unfortunate similarity between the acronyms IBS and IBD results in a lot of confusion between the relatively less serious (IBS) and the quite serious (IBD). You can read more about Crohn's and ulcerative colitis here: www.ccfa.org.
Avatar of: Herbert Smith

Herbert Smith

Posts: 2

January 31, 2011

I wonder why Stewart Johnson doesn't try the longer living hookworms (Necator Americanus) and whipworms (Trichuris Trichiura). They are harmless in small numbers, don't reproduce inside the host either but they live between 2 and 5 years, so the child would not have to take TSO every 2 weeks and it's significantly cheaper.\nI was able to put my severe Crohn's disease in remission by getting both of these organisms.
Avatar of: Herbert Smith

Herbert Smith

Posts: 2

January 31, 2011

For more information on helminthic therapy, please take a look at this excellent wiki page http://opensourcehelminththerapy.org\nIt contains links to blogs of people who are trying hookworms and whipworms for IBD and other diseases as well as hundreds of research papers on the subject under "Studies & Papers". You should also be able to find the link to my facebook page on the wiki site and follow my progress. I had severe Crohn's disease for over 15 years ( 3 surgeries, blood transfusion, TPN, Remicade, Humira, etc) and now I am completely symptom-free. I also lost my food allergies.
Avatar of: Mike Luis

Mike Luis

Posts: 1

February 1, 2011

Fascinating article. If the hygiene/old friends hypothesis stands correct about the rise of autoimmune diseases in developed countries/areas, and the connection between inflammation and autism is sound, then helminthic therapy holds potential to treat a huge amount of devastating conditions; IBD, Allergies, Asthma, MS, and now Autism, perhaps more. There is even literature on the potential effects on mental illness, such as clinical depression, as related to cytokines. I am a patient who has been using trichuris trichiura (human whipworm) to treat Ulcerative Colitis and have seen incredible success. I blog about my experience here:\nhttp://coloncomrades.wordpress.com/\n\nThank you for writing this article!
Avatar of: Bob Grant

Bob Grant

Posts: 22

February 2, 2011

Thanks very much for pointing out the inaccuracy regarding irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases, Anon.\n\nA correction is being made.\n\nCheers,\n\nBob Grant
Avatar of: Amy Hendrickson

Amy Hendrickson

Posts: 3

February 8, 2011

Has anyone heard of worms being used to help\npeople with diabetes? I believe both types 1 and 2\nare thought to be caused by autoimmune responses.\n\nI'd be very interested in hearing if research is\nbeing done in this area.\n\n-- Amy Hendrickson
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 17

February 8, 2011

I would love to find out as well about a possible benefit on diabetes.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

February 8, 2011

Hyperimmune egg would make a great deal of sense in that it partners with the body to modulate inflammatory responses. Children on hyperimmune egg have been reported to be more focused. Others have found that hyperimmune egg dramatically supports digestive health.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 6

February 8, 2011

There is a related & interesting episode of "Radiolab" on parasites. The latter part of this segment is about a man who infected himself with hookworm to treat his severe allergies and asthma by going to Cameroon and walking barefoot in "latrine" areas. \n\nhttp://www.radiolab.org/2009/sep/07/sculptors-of-monumental-narrative/
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

February 9, 2011

Very interesting and thought provoking. However, before we conclude that worms cure autism let's explore this hypothesis: Suppose that Lawrence, apart from being on the autistic spectrum, was also suffering from an auto-immune disease (in the gut). Because of his autism he could only express the resulting discomfort/pain by anger and agression. Treat the underlying auto-immune related cause of the pain with worms and the behavior improves, but the autism itself hasn't changed or cured. \nIf both conditions have a 1% incidence that means that roughly 1:10000 people have both; rare but not exceptional.\n\nwritten by a father of a son with (mild) autism and celiac
Avatar of: Peter Andrews

Peter Andrews

Posts: 1

February 10, 2011

I just read a fascinating article Healing Heat: Harnessing Infection to Fight Cancer\n\nI have heard that autistic symptoms sometimes recede when a child has a high fever. Have there ever been cases of autism being cured after an infection?
Avatar of: Mike Waldrep

Mike Waldrep

Posts: 155

February 10, 2011

Interesting!
Avatar of: Hilary Butler

Hilary Butler

Posts: 15

February 10, 2011

\nWhile it's crucial that these children's pain and agony is dealt with for their sakes and their families sakes, it's even more important that scientists do a roll call on themselves, because every day, more and more children become autistic, and scientists continue to point the finger elsewhere, without recognising that some of the "myriad dots" point right back to current "practice guidelines."\n\nStewart says: "\nStewart remains realistic about his continued contribution. ?Am I the one who?s going to find out the underlying mechanism by which helminths interact with the immune system?? he asks. ?No. I am definitely not that person. But I got us to this point, and now hopefully others can figure that out, and hopefully there is a connection and this will help other people.?\n\nEveryone passes the buck don't they, particularly, if the buck might sit in their own consulting rooms.\n\nDr Terry Wahls book wrote a book called "Minding my Mitochondria" \nhttp://www.amazon.com/Minding-Mitochondria-2nd-progressive-wheelchair/dp/0982175086/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1297364639&sr=1-1 \n\nShe says: "For many years, when my patients and students asked about herbal medicines, food supplements, aromatherapy, and the like, I dismissed those "alternatives" as unproven, faddish therapies. That was before I was burdened with a progressive disease that could not be stopped, or even slowed, by the best evidence-based medicine. "\n\nHer book demonstrates why dismissing alternatives can even rob a doctor like her, of her own health. \n\nNo-one shouldn't "need" worms every two weeks, even if they do work. There are other, more permanent ways to sort out gut issues in Autistic children, and there are plenty of people doing just that. \n\nThe real issue is "What causes these intestinal cytokine out bursts in the brain, which also send the immune system haywire?" \n\nIf Stewart is such a meticulous record keeper then he should look at the causes, not pass the buck to others. \n\nTake detailed histories of the families, in particular the mother. Look at how many times a mother's gut flora is trashed with antibiotics during pregnancy. Look at the effect of anti-acid on food processing in utero and its epigenetic down-flow in babies, because it alters how children respond to food antigens, which impacts on the gut. Look at the current hospital protocols which routinely shoot antibiotics into both mother and newborn babies for the merest suspicion of a sneeze.\n\nLook at the influence on babies who are caesarean deliveries whose first inoculum is a medical person's hand, and who is then scatter-gunned with antibiotics for days, as well as formula, and who may well NOT be breastfed at all. Look at the impact of that on a baby's gut, because the impact is LONG TERM.\n\nLook at HOW a babies gut is colonised and what it takes for that to continue. It is colonised during the vaginal descent of the babies head, which is reinforced with direct inoculation via breast milk, and the gut is patrolled and kept in control by extended breastfeeding.\n\nLook at the lack of support for breastfeeding in many hospitals, and the fact that many paediatricians still prefer mothers to "know" how much a baby is getting in a formula filled bottle with teat.\n\nLook at the "immune system" that is breast milk and how that orchestrates the whole body epigenetically. See how extend breastfeeding keeps a gut exceptionally healthy as well as the whole immune system, and that the correct balance of gut bacteria is the best possible prevention of CD and UC there is.\n\nLook at the fact that this balance is constantly undermined by the drug armoury of the paediatrician, especially when that baby is handed out repeated antibiotics by a doctor with no notion that every time, the gut gets napalmed.\n\nIf we continue to needless interfere with the epigenetic programming of the gut - which is fundamental; and if we continue to tell parents that "elective" caesareans are "perfectly safe" and that antibiotics are "perfectly safe" when they are ANTI .... biotics, we are deceiving ourselves.\n\nStudy the work of Dr Catherina Svanborg at Lund University, and the function of something called HAMLET.\n\nGo talk to Les Dethlefsen http://med.stanford.edu/mcr/2007/babyguts-0711.html Dethlefsen has proven that one antibiotic course, changes the gut permanently in many people. What is the outcome of that? Why don't doctors know this? Ask him why intact gut flora is so important.\n\nThat problem is then reinforced by parental ignorance about nutrition. They feed their children the Standard American Diet, which is SAD indeed, and which doesn't provide the correct pre and probiotics with which the good bacteria which control the gut and which can PREVENT both crohns and ulcerative colitis in the first place.\n\nAll the drugs which doctors have to offer have the potential to derange the immune system as well as biochemical pathways in the body. Why is this not studied? Aren't medical practices, drugs and (mal)nutrition the most blatantly implicated "environmental triggers" in autism?\n\nScientists have got to stop pointing the finger at "genes" or "environmental toxins" and look at the four fingers pointing right back at themselves, and ask themselves the questions:\n\nWhat are we doing to mothers and babies in pregnancy/birth/afterwards which causes derangement and a ramped up immune system with autoimmunity as a result? What impacts do medical interventions and drugs have on a baby in utero? Why are we allowing elective caesareans? Why do we use antibiotics as carelessly as people drink coca-cola.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

February 11, 2011

I am a mother of an autistic daughter \nand I suspect this autism treatment is another scam\nSomeone wrote: \n"treat the underlying autoimmune related cause of the pain and the behavior improves but the autism\nitself has not changed."\nWe do not know if the child treated with worms\nhas ulcerative colitis. Was he tested for the markers of this disease?
Avatar of: MEL WINESTOCK

MEL WINESTOCK

Posts: 3

February 11, 2011

A minireview by Hanada et al., (Biol. Chem. 391(12): 2010, page 1365) of this interesting system involving T-cell membrane protein ligands and ligand targets in various tissues, including specific neural and astroglial terrains in the brain may provide additional support to the findings that inflammatory responses may play a role in autism.
Avatar of: Robert  Cowen

Robert Cowen

Posts: 1

February 15, 2011

Assuming that worms do prove successful in treating autoimune diseases, it is important to determine the mechanism or mechanisms that effectively control disease. Might the worms themselves have evolved ways to mitigate the body's defenses by releasing chemicals that reduce the bodies immune response?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

February 25, 2011

Was this treatment tested for coeliac disease (cf. Crohn's disease)?
Avatar of: Glen Taylor

Glen Taylor

Posts: 1

March 2, 2011

I'm slightly blown away by this article. It's utterly fascinating. In principle, these techniques may be able to treat Alzheimer's disease and other neuroinflammatory dementia, unless I'm mistaken. Of course, that's quite a stretch, but it's definitely worth exploring.
Avatar of: CHANDRIKA B RAO

CHANDRIKA B RAO

Posts: 2

March 16, 2011

N. K. Jerne proposed the Immune Network Theory back in 1974 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune_network_theory for details). Even till 1992, biologists had serious doubts about the theory. Their main objection was that if the body naturally contains anti-idiotypic antibodies, then there would be masive autoimmune reaction resulting in death. The counter-argument for this (which was easily comprehensible to physicists but not biologists at the time) was that, the immune network was in a state of dynamic equilibrium in a normal individual, and that autoimmunity would result when one or more of the components of the network escaped regulatory control by its linked components. Mathematical models of immune network were developed which demonstrated this effect (G Hoffman and others). It is possible that worm therapy helps restore network equilibrium, but is not able to sustain the equilibrium over a long period of time, hence requiring continuing therapy. Perhaps immunologists can find an answer to the mechanism of action.
Avatar of: Jan-Olof Flink

Jan-Olof Flink

Posts: 4

March 23, 2011

Amy Hendrickson asks in the comments if "anyone heard of worms being used to help people with diabetes?"\n\nYes I did read about that early 2009.\nAnne Cooke, professor at Cambridge university and her team showed that they could stop diabetes in mice by giving them some kind of extract made from Schistosoma mansoni, the worm that causes bilharzia

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