old friends’ hypothesis

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3 new reviews in Immunology on how helminths are part of the missing link epidemiologically, along with certain other infections, and are probably the reason for the rise in autoimmunity, allergies, certain cancers, depression, nuerological diseases, and atherosclerosis. Click on the HTML or PDF link and you can read them in full.

Rook GAW; Review series on helminths, immune modulation and the hygiene hypothesis: The broader implications of the hygiene hypothesis. Immunology Volume 126 Issue 1, Pages 3-11. December 8 2008

Cooke A; Review series on helminths, immune modulation and the hygiene hypothesis: How might infection modulate the onset of type 1 diabetes? Immunology Volume 126 Issue 1, Pages 12-17. December 8 2008

Jackson JA, Friberg IM, Little S, Bradley JE: Review series on helminths, immune modulation and the hygiene hypothesis: Immunity against helminths and immunological phenomena in modern human populations: coevolutionary legacies? Immunology Volume 126 Issue 1, Pages 18-27. December 8 2008

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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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Just found this new study;


I just read the abstract, but basically it’s linking depression and
anxiety to our modern lifestyle. Is it just me, or are most of your
relatives on anti-depressants? My whole family needs worms!

I’m not surprised that in the inflammatory reaction period to
hookworm, some of us are getting depression. And then, some of us are
having moments of calm, elation, or just a lifting of a heavy burden
of dread. I’m so curious to see if my mental state changes radically
once I’m in remission. My husband is finding me much more humorous
lately. Perhaps since I am no longer living in fear of impending
death? Or its the hookworms; it’s hard to tell.

Amazing how the absence of microbes can cause so much
misery. I’m going out to the garden now to raise my spirits. It
seems that getting your hands in the dirt, literally, can cure depression;


Worms, dirt, a pet pig (prevents Crohn’s as long as you don’t give
antibotic feed, then you’re more likely to get asthma). We’re getting chickens this
Thursday; I wonder what protection they’ll bring? At the very least, some good eggs.

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