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Worm Therapy Shows Promise for Ulcerative Colitis
Date:12/1/2010

By Julia VanTine
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The case of a man who swallowed parasite eggs to treat his ulcerative colitis -- and actually got better -- sheds light on how "worm therapy" might help heal the gut, a new study suggests.

"Our findings in this case report suggest that infection with the eggs of the T. trichiura roundworm can alleviate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis," said study leader P'ng Loke, an assistant professor in the department of medical parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center. A human parasite, Trichuris trichiura infects the large intestine.

The findings could also lead to new ways to treat the debilitating disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) currently treated with drugs that don't always work and can cause serious side effects, said Loke.

The study findings are published in the Dec. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Loke and his team followed a 35-year-old man with severe colitis who tried worm (or "helminthic") therapy to avoid surgical removal of his entire colon. He researched the therapy, flew to a doctor in Thailand who had agreed to give him the eggs, and swallowed 1,500 of them.

The man contacted Loke after his self-treatment and "was essentially symptom-free," Loke said. Intrigued, he and his colleagues decided to follow the man's condition.

The study analyzed slides and samples of the man's blood and colon tissue from 2003, before he swallowed the eggs, to 2009, a few years after ingestion. During this period, he was virtually symptom-free for almost three years. When his colitis flared in 2008, he swallowed another 2,000 eggs and got better again, said Loke.

Tissue taken during active colitis showed a large number of CD4+ T-cells, which are immune cells that produce the inflammatory protein interleukin-17, the team found. However, tissue taken after worm therapy, when his
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