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'Worm Therapy' Might Help Ease Colitis, Monkey Study Shows
Date:11/16/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- For people with Crohn's disease and colitis, relief might come in the form of swallowing microscopic parasitic pig worm eggs, according to a new animal study of that unsavory-sounding treatment.

In five young rhesus monkeys diagnosed with "idiopathic chronic diarrhea," worm treatment relieved their symptoms and resulted in a healthier gut and reduced inflammation of the large intestine, or colon.

Such worms -- or helminths -- typically have resided in the human intestinal tract, helping to keep it healthy. But in the world's most developed regions, the presence of these worms in the human body is fading. And autoimmune bowel disorders like Crohn's and colitis are on the rise.

"Helminths are parasites, and they are pathogenic," said study co-author P'ng Loke, an assistant professor of microbiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City. "So in much of the world we try to get rid of them, because when children that are malnourished have helminth infections it can cause severe health problems," Loke said.

"But in the industrialized world you have to think about things from a different perspective, because a lot of autoimmune diseases have increased really rapidly over the last 50 years, as our societies have become more developed," Loke explained. "And at the same time, while up until recently about 70 to 80 percent of people were colonized with helminths, complex changes to the environment, largely due to changes in eating habits, have drastically reduced this number."

In industrialized countries where helminth "infections" have dropped dramatically, inflammatory bowel disease has shot up and now affects about 1.4 million Americans.

While previous research has suggested that reintroducing helminths and other microbials back into these patients might help, exactly how these worms seem to work their intesti
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