Parasite treatment for multiple sclerosis and…

In chapter 7 of my book, and in my post of Dec 2, 2011, I noted how the hygiene hypothesis is used to explain the relatively recent, serious rise in auto-immune disorders. This is illustrated by the correlation between the dramatic drop in infectious diseases and the corresponding increase in many auto-immune disorders during the 20th century. The figure is taken from Bach’s review in NEJM. Question: If a deficiency in exposure to microbes during early childhood development (good hygiene) leads to hyper-responsivenes to these microbes later in life (auto-immune disorders), is it too late to modulate the auto-immune responses by manipulating exposure to microbes in adulthood? As I’ve discussed here previously, manipulating the gut microbiome by fecal transplants has proven successful in treating severe bowel conditions in human patients. Another approach is to actually infect patients on purpose to possibly modulate the immune system in a favorable direction. This was the case with the Nobel prize winning work of Julius Wagner-Jauregg in which he infected schizophrenia patients with malaria, as discussed in chapter 1 (“Fever and madness”) of my book.

Thus, it is of interest that Correale & Farez in Argentina reported that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who happen to be infected with intestinal parasites (helminth worms) display markedly lower symptoms (behavioral and MRI) than uninfected MS patients. Moreover, when the infected patients were treated with drugs to kill the parasites, their MS symptoms dramatically increased, as did various markers of inflammation. In a more direct test, a small phase 1 clinical trial of administration of a non-pathogenic helminth (Trichuris suis; TSO) to MS patients by a group in Wisconsin found that TSO was well tolerated and favorable trends were observed in MRI and immunological assessments. Importantly for another, much larger patient population, a test of TSO treatment in adult autism subjects will begin soon.

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5 Responses to Parasite treatment for multiple sclerosis and…

  1. Beth Maloney says:

    I continue to be intrigued about this thread of research and its potential implications for PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep). The vast majority of parents I hear from are in large urban areas. I’ve often wondered if that is because the information about PANDAS is better known in the urban areas, or if PANDAS is simply less likely to strike in a rural setting.

    • Lori Oppenlander says:

      I spoke with a mom at the PANDAS Parents Symposium in San Francisco who knows another PANDAS mom in southern California who used the whipworm larvae on her son and had huge improvements. Apparently, they were in a PANDAS support group together and the mom stopped coming because he improved so much. I don’t think it has been studied at all in PANDAS kids though. I am not sure how she was able to get it or if it was part of a study. There is a company in San Diego who is doing studies as a treatment for MS. I find it interesting also.

    • Linda Williams says:

      From my personal experience with my daughter’s PANDAS, rural child professionals including schools and doctors seem to recognize the symptoms of PANDAS as very common but refuse to call it anything except imagine, child abuse, wanting attention, a puberty rite of passage or stress, even when presented with documentation explaining about PANDAS.

      Rural families often don’t have access to highly investigative medical care. Either their insurance doesn’t cover it or the local doctors are less skill/informed in anything except the basic common childhood issues. And they tend to discount the parents input since the families are from a lower socio-economic groups or other stereotype pidgeon holes.

      Also the administration of rural clinics/hospitals/insurance companies tend to be very rigid and don’t allow doctors much leeway for treating anything except within their rigid guidelines.

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