Further, after worm therapy, the man's colon produced significantly more mucus, said Loke, who noted that a lack of mucus in the colon is linked with severe symptoms. "We think the worms increase or restore mucus production in the colon," he said. "Basically, the gut is trying to expel the worms. This increase in mucus may play a role in relieving the symptoms."
"This is not the usual clinical trial, but you take your opportunities for unique observation where you can," said Dr. Gerald W. Dryden Jr., director of the clinical research division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky.
Before this study, IL-22 had not been associated with beneficial effect in IBD, said Dryden. "While it doesn't determine cause-and-effect, the study does seem to demonstrate an important, previously unknown association between IL-22 and response to helminthic therapy," he said.
Causing abdominal pain, diarrhea and other symptoms, colitis affects about 700,000 Americans, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Scientists don't know what causes the disease, but theorize that immune-system dysfunction plays a role.
Colitis is common in developed countries such as America -- where parasitic worm infections are rare -- and in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where virtually the entire population is infected, the study noted. Clinical trials with the pig whipworm Trichuris suis have improved the symptoms of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, and animal studies suggest that various parasitic worms can suppress inflammation, the study noted.
The study also suggests new, worm-based treatments for both ulcerative colitis and IBD. Research might identify molecules derived from worms that suppress inflammation, or pathways activated by worms that can be
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