An Obvious Solution to Treating IBD?

A short article about helminths and inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] was just published, and is absolutely worth a read (and post).[i]  I’d almost call it an op-ed piece.  It reads like this researcher is berating a medical system that is ignoring an obvious solution to treating IBD.

The article starts by point out that “Inflammation plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of IBD that induces mucosal inflammation.  Hence, treatment of IBD mainly targets on inhibition of pro-inflammatory mediators.”  However, current treatments are pretty horrific. I wrote about the incredibly high side effect profile of the currently available medications almost 2 years ago, in April 2017.  If you remember, I described an FDA report that concluded, “Drugs used to treat Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders are among those with the greatest number of reported side effects filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…Drugs which suppress the immune system to fight inflammation can cause serious and sometimes lethal infections including tuberculosis, and have been linked with blood disorders, including lymphoma, a blood cancer.”

Back to this new little article: the author goes on to give a brief explanation of what we know about how helminths modulate the immune system, i.e. invoking a Th2 immune response that boosts levels of “…Treg cells to release immunoregulatory cytokines…”  He goes on to further state that bacterial microbiome alterations are known to lead to the inflammatory response in IBD, but that helminths, “…can maintain microbiota of the GI in order to induce anti-inflammatory responses.”  Thus, therapeutic helminths both raise levels of regulatory T-cells and cytokines (the off-switch to the pro-inflammatory system) while also improving and maintaining the quality of the bacterial microbiome, which also drastically reduces inflammation.

He then points out that benign helminths, like Trichuris suis ova (TSO) – which are whip worms native to pigs – have been shown in multiple human trials to have “no pathogenic potential for humans” and “has shown no side-effects.”

So his conclusion – which seems pretty obvious to everyone – except the world’s regulatory agencies:  “Inasmuch as the resolution of inflammation is a therapeutic target of IBD and helminths have great immunomodulatory properties, helminth-based therapy may be efficacious for patients with IBD.”

As I have said before, I continue to live in hope that someday, someone with actual power AND common sense will listen.


[i] Abdoli, A. Therapeutic potential of helminths and helminth-derived antigens for resolution of inflammation in inflammatory bowel disesase. Aarchives of Medical Research. 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2019.03.001

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