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Very entertaining radio show on parasites:

Schistosome_ParasiteAnd no, this isn’t an alien…

First, they start with Carl Zimmer, a parasitologist who talks about amazing interactions between parasites and hosts.  Then they discuss the hookworm eradication project, where it was found that the South was suffering from anemia, not laziness, and outhouses changed the course of history.  Then, an interview with Jasper Lawrence and his forays into Africa and how he started AIT (why do they never talk about how he got Necator Americanus?) And finally, a pice about toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that comes from cat feces that might influence  human behavior.  We are not all that we think we are.  We are being controlled by our bacteria and parasites as we speak.  Mhwah-ha-ha!

Two pieces on hookworm therapy aired on CBS this week. The first piece is on the hygiene hypothesis and focuses on allergies and asthma. Click on the little video to the right to see the piece:

You can also view the video in their video library: Click on May 20th’s “Some Turn to Hookworms to Treat Ailments.”

And the Crohn’s one on hookworms:

You can also view it with a larger screen in the video library: Click on May 21st’s “Patients on Hookworm Therapy Swear by Treatment”

The opening is unfortunate. When we need to promote the idea of the hygiene hypothesis, and the fact that we are a walking microbiomes, the choice to sensationalize “eating worms” is disappointing. I didn’t eat 6 dirty earthworms, for God’s sakes. Hopefully the general public will be interested and not just further disgusted. Enjoy!

Another article on worms and the hygiene hypothesis from the BBC. And a detailed, follow-up article that lists the three new Immunology articles that provoked these articles. The popularity of this in recent press is very exciting. Of course, they always say they’re looking for the molecule that the worms ilicit in order to treat autoimmune diseases:

Professor Anne Cooke: “It will allow you to identify pathways of disease and allow you to modify them with small molecules, not the whole worm.”

“Before I would even consider treating a child with type 1 diabetes I would have to be sure it was safe and understand the mechanisms underlying it.

“We are talking about using fractions not the whole parasite.”

What they don’t recognize is that in the meantime, there are desperate patients like me, absolutely willing to try worms to alleviate our diseases. Especially as the choices we have are so dangerous – a small colony of hookworms or whipworms that only cause transient side effects (and this is written by the side effect queen), or Tysrabi, with a 1 in 1000 chance of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy? If I were a parent of a child with type 1 Diabetes, or Crohn’s, I would absolutely jump at the chance of trying a light hookworm infection rather than the alternative. How many decades until Professor Cooke and others figure out those fractions of parasites? I would lose another piece of my intestines.

We want worms now.

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Yet another article in the NY Times on why babies should be allowed to eat dirt, children should be allowed to run barefoot and not clean their hands before they eat. Basically, the hygiene hypothesis with more quotes from Weinstock and Elliott. Worms, they state, are probably the biggest players in training the immune system:

“Studies (Weinstock) has conducted with Dr. David Elliott, a gastroenterologist and immunologist at the University of Iowa, indicate that intestinal worms, which have been all but eliminated in developed countries, are “likely to be the biggest player” in regulating the immune system to respond appropriately, Dr. Elliott said in an interview. He added that bacterial and viral infections seem to influence the immune system in the same way, but not as forcefully.

Most worms are harmless, especially in well-nourished people, Dr. Weinstock said.

“There are very few diseases that people get from worms,” he said. “Humans have adapted to the presence of most of them.”

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