Helminthic therapy for well people

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We refer to the intentional hosting of helminths as a therapy, but it is more than this. Evolution has determined that having a helminth-rich microbiota is the default state for humans, and it is already clear that there are many benefits to be gained from hosting helminths throughout life, even for people in apparently good health.

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... humankind eventually needs to move beyond the idea that helminths are best used as a drug or a therapy. Rather, we need to embrace the view that helminths are a necessary component of the ecosystem of a healthy body, and that helminths should be cultivated for population-wide biota restoration. (Villeneuve et al)

This approach views helminths as being more like vitamins, and their absence as a helminth deficiency. Almost all who are living in industrialised countries today are helminth-deficient.

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I think eventually, we’ll understand that helminths are just a normal part of the ecosystem of our body. And eventually, I think it’s going to go beyond just a therapy. I think it’ll be a kind of probiotic that people will be using just to maintain health. (William Parker, Duke University.)

Since helminths are very effective in reducing inflammation, maintaining a small colony of helminths could potentially help to prevent a whole slew of degenerative diseases and other conditions related to the silent, chronic, low-grade, systemic inflammation that exacts a relentless toll on our tissues. [1] [2]

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All immunocompetent humans need regular exposure to helminths in order to maintain optimal immune function and avoid risk for inflammation-associated disease. This conclusion is based on “biota alteration theory”, the view that loss of biodiversity from the ecosystem of the human body as a result of industrialization has contributed to increased immune dysregulation and non-adaptive inflammation. In this view, exposure to helminths is a necessary component of our biology, and the essentially complete absence of those organisms is an underlying cause of inflammatory disease. Based on this view, we have argued that access to helminths is a basic human need. (Smyth et al)

There is mounting evidence to support this view, as can be seen from the following papers and articles.


Potentially reducible health risks[edit]

Ageing / aging[edit]

Hosting helminths could be key to living longer with greater freedom from chronic disease.

The following study was the first of its kind to report that weekly administration of the helminth-derived product, ES-62, improved late-life health and increased lifespan (+12%, median lifespan) in a mouse model of high-calorie diet-accelerated aging. This suggests that the anti-inflammatory effects of helminthic therapy can exert protective effects even in later life.

Allergy[edit]

Alopecia areata[edit]

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We have seen a link between AA and a dysfunctional gastrointestinal system which raised the hypothesis that an underlying intestinal inflammation drives the priming and dysregulation of immune cells that lead to hair follicle destruction. [4]

Alzheimer’s disease[edit]

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We present evidence that the E4 allele, often associated with cognitive decline, AD, and CVD in industrialized populations with minimal parasite burden, was associated with higher cognitive function among Tsimane Amerindians, but only among individuals with evidence of high parasite burden.

Arthritis[edit]

Atherosclerosis[edit]

Chronic helminth infection may protect against atherosclerosis development via induction of anti-inflammatory responses and alteration of atherogenic biomarkers.

Autoimmune disease[edit]

The following paper reveals that exposure to stress might lead to the development of autoimmune disease, and it could be argued that the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of helminths might help to interrupt this progression and reduce the risk of someone with a stress-related disorder going on to develop autoimmunity.

Autism[edit]

When a mother's immune system is modulated by helminths during pregnancy, her children will likely have a reduced risk of developing autism.

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Given the vast body of scientific literature connecting impaired cognitive development and function with inflammation, it seems almost certain that normalization of immune function and reduction of inflammatory disease in the human population will result in dramatically decreased levels of a wide range of cognitive disorders, including autism. [5]

Bone healing ability, loss of in the elderly[edit]

Age-associated inflammation is responsible for the decline in the number and function of the skeletal stem cells that enable bones to heal.

Cancer[edit]

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… specific pathogens may be able to elicit anti-tumor immune responses that can lead to protection from tumorigenesis or cancer regression.

Also see Helminthic therapy and cancer.

Cardiovascular disease[edit]

Nearly half of all adult Americans have cardiovascular disease. [8]

Immunotherapies that treat inflammatory conditions might have a role in the reduction of cardiovascular disease risks, [9] and anti-inflammatory medication allows patients with a history of heart attacks to enjoy a significantly lower incidence of recurrent cardiovascular events, [10] but these drugs may only be necessary because of the helminth deficiency that is widespread thought the developed world in the twenty first century.

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… it is possible that the parasites in the bodies of the Tsimane help regulate their immune systems and protect their hearts.
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… multiple lines of evidence support the notion that there is also an inverse relationship between helminthic infections and atherosclerosis and its related diseases. It is hereby hypothesized that worms are ‘protective’ against heart disease.
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Chronic infections, especially helminths, may offer protection against heart disease and diabetes through direct and indirect pathways.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)[edit]

COPD is a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Infection with a human hookworm-like helminth, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, briefly initiates the onset of emphysematous pathology, but this is quickly reversed by helminth-induced regulatory mechanisms that promote tissue repair and mitigate the emphysema.

Clostridium difficile infection[edit]

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Recent work has begun to show that a type-2 immune response, most often associated with helminth infections, allergy, and asthma, may be protective during C. difficile infection.

Cognitive dysfunction[edit]

COVID-19[edit]

Helminth infection is protective against COVID-19 and its complications.

See Helminthic therapy and COVID-19.

Dementia[edit]

Depression[edit]

Diabetes[edit]

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Our findings indicate that carefully controlled therapeutic hookworm infection in humans could be a novel approach for treating metabolic syndrome and thereby preventing T2D.
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Abundant evidence indicates that helminths and their by-products can exert immunomodulatory effects that prevent or delay the onset of T1D.… In the future, helminth-derived supplements may be included as part of a modern balanced diet.
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Helminth infections… may be protective against the development of diabetes, and this finding opens up new territory for discovery of novel therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
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… methods designed to suppress excess production of pro-inflammatory cytokines may form a new approach to prevent both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Also see Helminthic therapy and diabetes.

Encephalitis[edit]

Encephalitis, or brain inflammation, causes fever, confusion, memory loss, psychosis and seizures. It can progress quickly over weeks or even days and may become life-threatening.

Whether this condition is caused by infection or autoimmunity, a helminth deficiency will arguably increase the risks, whereas helminth exposure may reduce them.

Fibromyalgia[edit]

Fibromyalgia has been linked to increased systemic inflammation and neuro-inflammation.

Glaucoma[edit]

Graves' disease[edit]

Graves’ hyperthyroidism may be prevented by helminth infection or with the application of helminth-derived products.

Helicobacter pylori infection[edit]

Hosting helminths may provide a buffering mechanism against the effects of H. pylori infection, alleviating the Th1-dependent response and protecting against inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract.

Heavy metal accumulation[edit]

Some helminth species may be able to remediate heavy metal accumulation in their hosts’ tissues.

HIV[edit]

Helminth infections can reduce the susceptibility of T-cells to HIV-1 infection, so may be beneficial against HIV-1.

Hyperemesis gravidarum[edit]

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a pregnancy complication characterised by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and possibly dehydration, [11] which is considered more severe than morning sickness. [12] In view of the fact that allergy is the most significant condition associated with HG prior to pregnancy [13] - which suggests a possible allergic or autoimmune component - it is possible that women who are hosting helminths might be less likely to develop HG.

Immune disorders[edit]

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)[edit]

Helminth exposure may prevent IBD.

Insulin resistance[edit]

Helminth infections are associated with lower insulin resistance.

Joint replacement, failure of[edit]

Helminths could extend the life of joint replacements by reducing inflammation-related bone loss.

Kidney pathology[edit]

A worm-derived immunomodulator protects against kidney damage in SLE.

Leg ulcers, recalcitrant[edit]

Research has identified a connection between wounds that don't heal and autoimmunity, suggesting that preventing autoimmune disease by hosting helminths might also help to reduce the risk of recalcitrant leg ulcers.

Lifespan reduction[edit]

Macular degeneration / age-related macular degeneration (AMD)[edit]

Malaria[edit]

Children with helminths may be less likely to contract malaria.

Infection by Trichuris trichiura has been associated with direct reductions in cerebral malaria risk.

Removal of helminths can increase the risk from infectious agents such as malaria and influenza.

Hosting hookworms concurrently with one species of malaria can reduce the malaria burden by almost 50 percent.

Metabolic syndrome[edit]

Helminth infection may provide protection against metabolic syndrome.

Miscarriage[edit]

Many women who suffer recurrent miscarriages exhibit autoimmune phenomena similar to what is seen in patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and these women may be treated with prednisone to reduce inflammation.

Also see Helminthic therapy and pregnancy.

Mold (mould) health issues[edit]

Helminthic therapy might prevent symptoms arising from mold exposure.

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Thanks to helminthic therapy, she can cope much better now with mold.” [14]
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Preliminary research identifies helminthic therapy as a possible treatment strategy to arrest the chronic inflammatory response, induced by mold and other biotoxins.

Muscle mass loss in the elderly[edit]

Age-related decline in muscle function may be driven by chronic inflammation.

Narcolepsy[edit]

Also see Helminthic therapy and narcolepsy.

Neuropsychiatric disorders[edit]

Exposure to helminths may have a profoundly positive affect on neuropsychiatric disorders. [15] [16] HDCs are already being used effectively as a therapeutic agent to relieve a wide range of these disorders, [17] (PDF) [18] [19] and Bilbo and colleagues have used a laboratory model to show that colonization with H. diminuta protects rats from inflammation-induced cognitive dysfunction. [20]

Obesity[edit]

The results from this study suggest that helminth infection protects against obesity by altering the gut microbiota.

Helminths prevented weight gain in laboratory mice on a high-fat diet. They did this by boosting populations of bacteria that produce compounds which trigger increased energy consumption.

This paper reports that a helminth infection can be associated with improved lipid profile in overweight/obese individuals, a feature that might contribute to reducing the risk of cardiometabolic diseases in this population.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)[edit]

Obstructive sleep apnea[edit]

Osteoarthritis[edit]

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… initially considered cartilage driven, OA is a much more complex disease with inflammatory mediators released by cartilage, bone and synovium. Low-grade inflammation induced by the metabolic syndrome, innate immunity and inflammaging are some of the more recent arguments in favor of the inflammatory theory of OA…”

Osteoporosis[edit]

Pain, chronic[edit]

Parkinson's disease[edit]

Chronic inflammation may cause neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease may originate in the intestines.

The use of immunosuppressant drugs may keep Parkinson's disease at bay, and may also slow progression of the disease if it develops.

Helminths can achieve similar beneficial effects to immunosuppressants without the long term adverse side effects.

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They (pig whipworms - TSO) have a brilliant effect on dyskinesia and the need for drugs. It reduces the need for levadopa considerably. [21] (Video)

Also see Helminthic therapy and Parkinson's disease.

Preeclampsia[edit]

Also see Helminthic therapy and pregnancy.

Premature birth[edit]

Premenstrual Syndrome[edit]

(Science Alert have published a very readable article about this research.)

Psychosis[edit]

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There are several lines of evidence to suggest that a proportion of psychotic illnesses have a plausible autoimmune component.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)[edit]

RLS has been associated with inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)[edit]

Rosacea[edit]

The risk for rosacea, as well as other skin disorders such as atopic eczema and onychomycosis (toenail fungus), increase with the presence of systemic low-grade inflammation.

Schizophrenia[edit]

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Inflammation, particularly of a low-grade nature, is a consistent pathological finding in schizophrenia… [22] [23]

Sepsis[edit]

A helminth-derived molecule significantly suppressed the inflammation-driven cytokine storm in a mouse model of septic shock.

Suicide[edit]

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)[edit]

Infection with the murine helminth, Hymenolepis microstoma (HM), protected mice against the development of lupus, improved all signs and symptoms of the disease, and prevented death.

Tourette Syndrome[edit]

Tuberculosis[edit]

Venous thromboembolism (VTE)[edit]

(Also pulmonary embolism (PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)).

Inflammation appears to change the hemostatic balance towards thrombogenesis, and autoimmune disorders have been linked to an increased risk of VTE.

Testimonies to health enhancement[edit]

Well people who host helminths as prophylaxis against autoimmune and inflammation-related conditions may never know exactly how much their worms have helped to keep them well but, occasionally, a case is reported that hints at the extent of the potential benefits.

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I was healthy when I started (helminthic therapy) so I wasn't expecting a lot of improvements. My first inoculation was in Dec 2018. Now (April 2020) I have a total of about 25 NA's. Usually this time of year I suffer from bad allergies but not this year! I have had no issues with it for the first time since my 20's. The most important improvement for me (don't laugh) is that I can now eat movie popcorn without suffering stomach cramps. [24]

When a clinical pathologist specialising in medical microbiology heard about helminthic therapy, he decided he had to experience what was involved, but he had no expectation of benefit beyond hoping that it might possibly improve his seasonal hay fever. In the event, he experienced several additional benefits.

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Unexpected was the disappearance of the arthritis in my knees, being able to go for a jog without having to stop out of breathlessness (I think I must have had undiagnosed exertional asthma all my life), and finding myself unattracted by starchy, greasy foods. Result of the latter being that I have lost 12 Kg, and kept it off, and that is after 65 years of unsuccessfully battling overweight! Going with that, my total to HDL cholesterol ratio has fallen from 4.3 to 2.8. [25] I've had no recurrence of the painful heels of plantar fasciitis, and… best of all, my mood has improved hugely. I am a really happy person. [26]

See also[edit]

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