Helminthic therapy and fertility

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A paper published in 2015 claimed to have discovered a link between infection with “hookwormsA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin.” and both delayed first pregnancy and extended inter-birth intervals.

Not surprisingly, this finding alarmed some women who are self-treating with therapeutic helminthsAn intestinal worm which grows large enough to be seen with the naked eye when mature but which is microscopic when administered in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths Wikipedia:Helminths], especially those using hookwormsA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin.. However, there are a number of issues with this paper.

  • The study was carried out in an Amazonian lowland population in Bolivia, so the subjects had very different backgrounds, lifestyles and environment from Western populations.
  • The worm burdens of these forager-horticulturalists are not quantified. If they were large, their effects would have been significantly different from those experienced by Westerners hosting small, “therapeutic” numbers of worms.
  • The species of hookwormA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin. is not specified, even though there are significant differences between the two types of hookwormA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin., Ancylostoma duodenaleA species of roundworm, aka the Old World hookworm, that is "not" used in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancylostoma_duodenale Wikipedia:Ancylostoma duodenale] (ADAncylostoma duodenale. A species of roundworm, aka the Old World hookworm, that is not suitable for use in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancylostoma_duodenale Wikipedia:Ancylostoma duodenale]) and Necator americanusThe species of human hookworm used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin. (NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus). These differences include the fact that ADAncylostoma duodenale. A species of roundworm, aka the Old World hookworm, that is not suitable for use in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancylostoma_duodenale Wikipedia:Ancylostoma duodenale] draws almost 10 times more blood while feeding than NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus does. The fact that the researchers observed reduced body mass index and lower haemoglobin in the women infected by “hookwormsA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin.” suggests that these subjects were likely to have been hosting ADAncylostoma duodenale. A species of roundworm, aka the Old World hookworm, that is not suitable for use in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancylostoma_duodenale Wikipedia:Ancylostoma duodenale], whereas the only hookwormA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin. species used in helminthic therapyThe reintroduction to the digestive tract of a controlled number of specially domesticated, mutualistic helminths (intestinal worms) in the form of microscopic eggs or larvae to reconstitute a depleted biome to treat and prevent chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease and other immunological disorders including allergy. is NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus.

Commentators have raised several further issues in relation to this paper.

  • There is no evidence of lowered fertility in non-human animals infected by helminthsAn intestinal worm which grows large enough to be seen with the naked eye when mature but which is microscopic when administered in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths Wikipedia:Helminths], in spite of the fact that this is something that could reasonably have been expected to be observed by veterinarians and owners of animals.
  • There is no evidence of prior human epidemiology indicating such a lowered fertility connection in the absence of anaemia and/or worm-induced nutritional deprivation.
  • A reduction in fertility does not make good evolutionary sense, because any worm that produces this effect would be reducing its own farm stock.

Fortunately, for those who are concerned by this paper, the evidence from helminthic therapyThe reintroduction to the digestive tract of a controlled number of specially domesticated, mutualistic helminths (intestinal worms) in the form of microscopic eggs or larvae to reconstitute a depleted biome to treat and prevent chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease and other immunological disorders including allergy. users is that not only does self-treatmentMedication or treatment of one's own disease or condition without medical assistance. with NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus and other therapeutic helminthsAn intestinal worm which grows large enough to be seen with the naked eye when mature but which is microscopic when administered in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths Wikipedia:Helminths] not reduce fertility, but it may actually increase it.

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I got pregnant straight away with no problems while hosting. [1]
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I got pregnant 4 times while hosting whipwormA helminth with a tapering whiplike body that lives in the colon. In helminthic therapy, the microscopic eggs of either the human Trichuris trichiura (TTO) or pig Trichuris suis (TSO) are taken in a drink. and hookwormA helminth that lives in the small intestine. Necator americanus (NA) is the only hookworm species used in helminthic therapy. Its microscopic larvae are applied periodically to the skin.. [2]
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I had my first "sticky" pregnancy hosting NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus… "sticky" means I did not miscarry for the first time. I had lost 3 pregnancies before hosting NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus. I believe NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus calmed my immune system, which in turn made my body more able to support a pregnancy. It's hard to know what exactly causes a miscarriage. Could have been my "advanced maternal age", could have been a genetic problem with the fetus, etc. NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus have made me feel generally more in balance and healthy, and I needed to be healthy to support a pregnancy. [3] [4]
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I conceived on the first try last October at age 37 while hosting NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus and taking TSOthe ova (eggs) of the porcine (pig) whipworm, Trichuris suis. I had been on NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus for a year and a half, and TSOthe ova (eggs) of the porcine (pig) whipworm, Trichuris suis for about 3 months. So helminthsAn intestinal worm which grows large enough to be seen with the naked eye when mature but which is microscopic when administered in helminthic therapy. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths Wikipedia:Helminths] certainly didn't hinder my fertility at all, and perhaps helped considering my age and my health issues. I am currently having a very healthy pregnancy with the baby looking healthy and perfect at my 20 week anatomy scan. [5] [6]
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I’ve got worms since June 2013. Two months later I got pregnant on the first try -- I did an ovulation-test, which worked very well. Second time, after I had 4 doses of NAthe human hookworm, Necator americanus and one very early miscarriage, I also got pregnant thanks to an ovulation-test. N=2 of course, but I can only say that conceiving went extremely easy for us, old parents (I'm 42, boyfriend is 47). The way I see it: the healthier I feel, the better I'm able to tolerate a pregnancy. [7]

See also

SimpleHTLogo(18x18).gif Helminthic Therapy Wiki: documenting the science, management, experience and results of helminth replacement therapy.