Worms for MS

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Worms for MS

Postby bromley » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:30 am

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Postby bromley » Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:49 am

Can drinking worm eggs treat Multiple Sclerosis? 07 March 2008

Some UW Hospital patients will soon test an unusual treatment: They'll drink a cocktail of worm eggs, which will hatch inside their bodies.

Doctors say the low-grade infection of worms, harvested from pigs, can help regulate faulty immune systems. The patients have multiple sclerosis, in which the immune system attacks nerve cells.

"The yuck factor is hard to get over," acknowledged Dr. John Fleming, the UW Hospital neurologist who plans to launch a study of worm therapy next month. "But the idea has scientific merit."

Patients with other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, have tried worm therapy elsewhere. It has eased symptoms without causing known side effects.

Many scientists believe the prevalence of such autoimmune conditions — including multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma and a form of diabetes — is partly explained by a "hygiene hypothesis."

Sanitary environments in developed countries have led to more of the diseases, the theory goes, because people's immune systems aren't properly trained by exposure to germs and parasites.

The worm therapy offers a crash course of such training, Fleming said. "It stimulates the immune system in a good way."

He said the concept is similar to eating yogurt, which contains helpful bacteria that regulate digestion.

In the UW-Madison study, five patients with multiple sclerosis will sip a sports drink-like liquid every two weeks for three months. Each cup will contain 2,500 eggs of the whipworm, a tiny organism that commonly lives in humans and animals.

Though the human whipworm rarely causes illness, the study uses a pig version that is benign in people, Fleming said.

The eggs hatch into larvae, the size of an eyelash, that stick to the inside of the intestine. In killing the larvae, the body unleashes an extra dose of regulatory T cells, which dampen overactive immune cells.

Existing multiple sclerosis treatments, all of them injections, also try to block overactive immune cells.

But with the worm therapy, "instead of knocking down the bad parts of the immune system, we're pushing up the good parts," Fleming said.

He is buying the egg-containing liquid from Ovamed, a German company that harvests the eggs from pigs.

Multiple sclerosis can cause numbness, paralysis, blindness and other symptoms. Most patients have a "relapsing-remitting" form, in which flare-ups are followed by recovery periods.

Fleming will check to see if the worm therapy reduces the frequency or severity of flare-ups. Patients will also undergo monthly MRI scans to see if fewer lesions develop in the brain and spinal cord, where the disease destroys nerve cells.

If the study is successful, 15 patients will be enrolled in a follow-up trial for a year. Then a larger study might be launched comparing worm therapy with a placebo, or fake treatment.

Worm therapy is a promising alternative treatment for the 400,000 Americans with multiple sclerosis, said Dr. John Richert. He is vice president for research and clinical programs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which is funding Fleming's study.

"We need to push for the development of new and safe medications," Richert said. "This is a direction that has a strong chance of bearing fruit."

Fleming admits he was skeptical when he first heard of worm therapy. It was carried out a few years ago by Joel Weinstock of the University of Iowa, who is now at Tufts University in Boston.

Zsuzsanna Fabry, a pathologist who worked with Weinstock in Iowa, is now at UW-Madison. She told Fleming of Weinstock's research, which had positive results in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Fleming figured the same approach could work in multiple sclerosis.

A study in Argentina backed up that hunch. It compared a dozen multiple sclerosis patients who were naturally infected with a similar worm with a dozen worm-free patients.

Over four years, those with the worms had 90 percent fewer flare-ups and brain lesions.

"This idea seems outrageous at first," Fleming said. "But many good, new ideas do."

Source: madison.com © 2008 Capital Newspapers (07/03/08)
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Postby TwistedHelix » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:05 am

That minor earthquake we had in Britain the other day – could it have been Bob jumping up and down with glee at this news?
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Postby CureOrBust » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:08 am

A study in Argentina backed up that hunch. It compared a dozen multiple sclerosis patients who were naturally infected with a similar worm with a dozen worm-free patients.

Over four years, those with the worms had 90 percent fewer flare-ups and brain lesions.
So worms dont protect you 100%. I wonder how hard it was to find people with both MS & worms?
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Postby TwistedHelix » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:26 am

Hey Cure ,
That's a good point. I suppose it could be something to do with timing: for instance, perhaps worms do provide near-100% protection if you are infested from childhood, but not if you get them later on. The immune system is in a state of flux up until puberty and some other infections are known to produce different effects depending on age.
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Postby gwa » Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:47 am

double post
Last edited by gwa on Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby gwa » Fri Mar 07, 2008 8:49 am

[quote I wonder how hard it was to find people with both MS & worms?


My oldest son had worms when he was about 7 and the doctor told me to put him in a dark room and watch his rear end with a flashlight to see the worms crawl out of his rectum.

If this is the same procedure for finding whip worms, it may take a while to find MS patients with worms. Lyon, you first.

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Postby Lyon » Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:55 am

:lol: Smoking cessation really has got me out of it if I've missed THIS post for so long!

Hi Cure....although researchers are forced into the position of having to use helminth infestation to document an effect, my personal interest and focus in this is as the original cause of MS/autoimmune/inflammatory diseases. Although it may seem contrary, I don't look at it as the cure. I think things like Campath, Tovaxin and Revimmune offer far more hope to people with MS in the near future, but I still think it's important to define the cause of MS, hence my interest in the parasites.

In other words, in this case I don't proclaim that the reverse of the cause equals the cure.

Despite that, I think it's essential to note that the less than 100% efficacy in trying to use parasites as a "cure" is most likely due to:

1. The helminths most researchers use aren't among those which had shared evolution as "part" of the human system and had evolved specifically to control the human immune system.

It's only sensible to expect a huge difference in the results shown by a parasite which is so in control of the human immune system that it lives for 20 years in the domain of the human immune system, as opposed to a parasite which is detected and killed by the immune system in two weeks (what researchers use). That parasite obviously isn't controlling the human immune system very well, and those are the only parasites that the FDA will (begrudgingly) allow researchers to use.

2. One of the key issues is that under "evolutionary normal conditions" children are more highly parasitized than adults and it's considered that exposure to "evolutionary normal conditions" up to the age of 14 or 15 years old "teaches" or "matures" the human immune system to behave correctly through adulthood.

In other words, after appropriate exposure to evolutionary normal conditions in childhood, an adult shouldn't need parasite exposure to ward off immune dysfunction.

In the same light, there is no guarantee that NOT experiencing evolutionary normal conditions in childhood and then exposing someone to one factor of evolutionary normal conditions in adulthood, after already experiencing immune dysfunction, is going to be 100% effective.

For the above reasons, I've always found the less than perfect results shown by researchers in human trials amazingly positive.

Bob
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