Are helminth therapies effective in treating autoimmune diseases?
As autoimmune diseases become increasingly common in the modern world, researchers have begun to explore the potential effect of parasites and helminths in this growing epidemic. Many studies have suggested that helminthic infections and the presence of helminths in the human gut, can alter the immune system responses that may be involved in autoimmune diseases.
What are Helminths?
Helminths, often referred to as parasitic worms, are a diverse group of worms. Some of the more common species include roundworms, tapeworms, flukes, and whipworms. They are typically acquired through food sources or contact with infected humans, animals, or soil.
The Link Between Helminths and Autoimmune Diseases
Helminths can cause mild abdominal discomfort, rashes, and fever, however, many studies suggest that helminth infections can be beneficial for the immune system.
In recent years, researchers have looked at how helminths may help to stabilize the immune system and possibly improve autoimmune diseases. It is believed that helminths can regulate the immune system by inducing an anti-inflammatory response to keep it from attacking its own tissues.
Helminths can also increase the production of immunoglobulins, or antibodies, that are specific to their own molecules. This action creates a barrier between the body’s healthy tissue and the foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
The Potential Benefits of Helminths in Autoimmune Disease Treatment
Research suggests that, in some cases, helminth infections can reduce the severity of autoimmune diseases. In one study, mice that had the gastro-intestinal parasitic worm, Trichuris suis, showed significant decreases in inflammation, as compared to untreated mice.
Another study, in humans, showed that treatment with the parasite, Necator americanus, helped reduce symptoms in patients with Crohn’s Disease. Additionally, helminths may offer therapeutic potential as they can be used to modulate the immune system, thereby reducing its pro-inflammatory activity.
In conclusion, while the exact relationship between helminths and autoimmune diseases is still being explored, studies suggest that there is potential for helminthic infections to reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system in a way that helps treat and manage autoimmune diseases. If further research is conducted, this could have a major impact on the treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases in the future.