Treating Ulcerative Colitis With Worms and Helminth Infections

Hi Everyone (and thanks to Dan for prompting me to look more into this),

Most of you may have already read this news, but there is another study recently published on a potential alternative approach treatment for ulcerative colitis.  The study involves eating worms/worm eggs of all things.  The idea is biologically complex as are most science projects and research projects involving our bodies, but one of the high level ideas on how it has helped reduce colits inflammation is this:  after eating the worms, the research showed that “IL-22, a cytokine involved in mucosal healing” became more abundant in the colon’s mucous lining.  This IL-22 stuff is good stuff that our colon needs when its trying to heal, and prior to eating the worms, this “cytokine” was much less abundant in patients who were studied.  So again, after eating the worm eggs, there was documented healing of the colon which is fabulous news.

I am going to try my best to setup an interview with some of the researches who worked on this project who live close to me.  To find out more information on this topic and to dive a bit deeper into what this might mean to all of us who are struggling with ulcerative colitis.  This type of worm treatment is not new to UC, but it is definitely not talked about very much.  The more information we can have at our fingertips, especially if there is good evidence that something is proven and is working for many people, the better we will be.

If you want to read the actual abstract(condensed version) of the worm therapy for colitis study: “IL-22+ CD4+ T Cells Are Associated with Therapeutic Trichuris trichiura Infection in an Ulcerative Colitis Patien”






14 Responses to “Treating Ulcerative Colitis With Worms and Helminth Infections”

  1. Reid Bryant KimballDecember 3, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Be careful using the term “worms”. You might upset people who are supportive of this approach because the official name is Helminths. Worms are reserved for things like earth worms, which really gross people out, but these Helminths are nothing like them, in fact they are microscopic. I think you either drink a liquid solution that looks exactly like water or use an eye dropper to drop some on your skin.

    I interviewed someone that’s doing hookworm therapy.

  2. KellyDecember 3, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    The last I heard about this treatment it was considered illegal in the US. I think it may still be but it sounds like the US is now involved with the research. By the way Adam, that link you gave only gives the abstract. Did you read the whole article? Or is there a way to read the whole article?

    The first place I heard of this treatment was on the radio show on NPR called “This American Life” the show’s number and title is 404: Enemy Camp and the segment is called “Act III As the Worm Turns” go to this link if you would like to check it out. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/404/enemy-camp-2010
    The story is fascinating and entertaining.

    Jasper Lawrence who came up with “worm therapy” on his own and went to Africa to infect himself also has his own web site and facebook page. He is not allowed to “practice” or provide worms to people in the US. You have to go to Mexico to get them. Or you could go to England to be in a study at the University of Notthingham, although many people who arrive at this level of desperation are too sick to fly for that long. But, for people in the US, it looks like the University of Iowa is now involved but I’m not sure at what level.

    Before I was told I have UC I thought I had Crohn’s, it runs in my family. I was reading a lot of websites on Crohn’s and blogs. There is one blog which I currently cannot find where this woman went to Mexico to receive the worm therapy from Jasper Lawrence. That form of therapy is intense and your body really struggles for several months to a year in her case but then she got better. That is why the scientists are trying to isolate the chemical that the worms create in our bodies so people don’t have to suffer through the whole process of infestation. Yuck!

    But this is a really fascinating subject. Thanks Adam!

    • AdamDecember 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

      Hey Kelly,
      I have not read the whole article, but once I get it, I will see if I can get permission to post it up. Its probably going to be pretty “scientifickee”
      this is neat stuff though for sure!

      Hey Reid,
      I thought people would be proud of chowing on worms or anything remotely resembling worms, I know I would ::)

  3. KellyDecember 3, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Oops. Sorry Reid. Your posting wasn’t up when I wrote mine.
    Please don’t think I’m making light of the Helminth therapy treatment, because I am not. I lean in this direction more so than taking pharmaceutical drugs. Unfortunately though, the truth is that we are all predisposed to thinking parasites are quite disgusting and that very well may be the reason why we are all in this mess in the first place. Which is why people in developing nations do not suffer from IBD’s as much as those in developed nations. We killed off all the “bugs” that are necessary for our very survival. Which is also why we spend so much money trying to put the bacterial strains back in our guts.

  4. Reid Bryant KimballDecember 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    No worries Kelly, :) You can also go to other countries to get the treatment. I don’t want to say the names because those country’s governments could crack down on this just like the US, which would remove Helminthic Therapy as an option.

    Before Sept, 2009 the FDA allowed use of this treatment, but after that time they ruled because the Helminths change the biochemistry of the body that it must be regulated as a drug. Apparently, food doesn’t??

    Here’s where it gets infuriating. To be regulated as a drug by the FDA it needs to go through expensive clinical trials. But Helminths can’t be patented (which I agree with because they are life) and so a company can’t profit hugely from investing in expensive studies to prove their efficacy and then selling the treatment.

    So, Helminths remain unstudied to a large degree and not approved by the FDA.

    • KellyDecember 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

      Infuriating, yes. And this is why so many people take the pursuit of well being into their own hands.

  5. StephenDecember 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    Just so we are crystal clear, I would snort nightcrawlers if it worked!!! :) I was REALLY interested in this a year or so ago, and contacted someone at University of Iowa (wish I could find the emails!). I was told that they weren’t currently doing any studies, but that there were some clinical trials happening in the U.S.! I looked at the international route, but it was too cost prohibitive for me. I got a little sketched out by some of the stories that I found repeated on the net that seemed like sketchy marketing ploys to take advantage of us IBD folks. BUT, there does seem to be a lot of evidence building to show that it might be legit! Here is a wiki I just found with more articles on helminth therapy: http://opensourcehelminththerapy.org/mediawiki2/index.php?title=Studies .

    • Reid Bryant KimballDecember 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

      Oh it’s legit. I interviewed Luke Stokes http://lukecology.blogspot.com/ who had it done a few days prior and I saw the Helminthic Rash on his arm. Heck, you can see him in my trailer video in the middle when the music cuts out.

  6. KellyDecember 4, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Stephen,

    Thank you for that link. I read one of the articles that stood out to me by Joel Weinstock and David Elliott on the IBD Hygiene Hypothesis. Very Good, I love it! I will have to read more of the articles later. Oh, and if you are willing to eat nightcrawlers you should listen to the radio show on the link I gave in my first post above. Jasper Lawrence was so ill he went to Africa to walk through a towns outdoor latrine area barefoot to infect himself with hookworms! The story is not exactly for the faint of heart but it shows just how badly people want to be cured.

    And Reid, Thank you for the link to Luke’s blog. I will have to follow his progress and, to my surprise, he has a link to the blog I could not find earlier called Waiting for the Cure. It is by the woman who received her “worms” from Jasper. Excellent stuff. These are true pioneering people! I’m glad somebody has the guts to try these things (pun intended) so the rest of us may eventually follow suit.

  7. DavesNinjaMarch 10, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    HA! My boyfriend read this article to me just after I was diagnosed. I told him that I am REFUSING to eat worms and he told me he was going to slip me some in my sleep. :)

  8. AnnaJanuary 22, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    I “had” UC. I’ve been in remission for 7 years thanks to being one of the few selected for a helminth clinical study!
    These thrichurus suis ‘worms’ saved my life! If anyone has a chance to get these please try it. Meds didn’t work for me.

    • CharlieJanuary 26, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      Anna, where do you go for treatment (or did treatment end with the trial)?

      • AnnaJanuary 27, 2012 at 10:03 am #

        The treatment stopped when they received all the data they needed. I contacted my doctor whe led the trial, Dr. Weinstock who is in Boston now about how to get the treatment for some friends that I know with UC and the company Ovamed provides it at a heafty price. So many of us were successful at getting better through this study that I wish the FDA wiould just approve the treatment.

        • AnnaJanuary 27, 2012 at 10:08 am #

          The BBC interviewed me for Show about parasites! Google my name, Anna Glanz and my story is there. I wish everyone good health and many prayers that this disease is cured. Like I said, it’s been gone from me for 7 years thanks to these worms!

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