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

nal magic was unclear. Until now.

"What we're talking about here are very carefully controlled and complex clinical trials in which the helminths we use are certified to be pathogen-free by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]," Loke said. "And what we're seeing is that these worms seem to act to restore the immune regulatory networks, which control the immune system, by restoring gut bacteria levels and stimulating mucus production."

The study appears in the November issue of PLoS Pathogens. The team included researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and New York University.

For the monkeys in the study, their diarrheal disease was considered similar to immune bowel disorders in humans, with symptoms such as progressive weight loss and dehydration. In primate research centers, the illness is one of the main causes of death among such monkeys.

Tissue sample analyses revealed that the previously impaired bacterial composition of the monkeys' intestinal walls had been restored to near healthy levels following helminth treatment. Four of the five monkeys showed clear signs of reduced diarrhea and weight gain as a result of the intervention.

So what is a Crohn's or colitis patient to make of all this?

"I would say that the FDA is looking at this approach as it would with any other drug, and so should the consumer," Loke said. "It's like a vaccine, or at least a live attenuated vaccine, in which you're immunizing yourself with a virus that doesn't harm you to get protection from a virus that does. And I'm sure at one point the idea of immunizing with a vaccine seemed kind of crazy. But now we understand that it's a critical part of achieving protection."

That thought is seconded by Dr. Edward Loftus, Jr., a professor of medicine and director of the inflammatory bowel disease intere
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'Worm Therapy' Might Help Ease Colitis, Monkey Study Shows
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