I never would have believed it if I hadn’t read it myself, but in the search to find a cure for MS, scientists have moved beyond pharmaceuticals and into the realm of parasites. (Really, though, if they help you out, aren’t they symbiotes?)
My first thought, when I started reading about the use of roundworms as a potential immune system modulator was “This reminds me of when they used to use leeches… or when they used to bleed patients because the “humors” were off…” but as I continued reading, I began to lose my skepticism.
Initially, the research which lead to its potential use for MS began because a concerned father had a child with autism who had self-destructive behaviors caused by his disease.
“He [the father] discovered the work of a trio of physician/researchers at the University of Iowa who had successfully treated patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis using a nematode parasite found in the intestines of pigs—Trichuris suis, the pig whipworm. Both are autoimmune disorders in which the immune system essentially attacks the intestinal walls. Stewart also found data that pointed to a link between some autism symptoms and inflated levels of proinflammatory cytokines, an apparent result of the immune system attacking glial cells in patients’ brains. Putting these bits of information together, Stewart wrote a short review paper and presented it to Hollander. His central hypothesis was that parasitic worm infection would modulate Lawrence’s immune system and calm inflammation that was causing his disruptive behaviors.”
It proved completely effective.
“Within 10 weeks of the higher-dose treatment, the autistic boy stopped smashing his head against walls. He stopped gouging at his eyes. The paralysis and frustration that held him and his family prisoners in their own home lifted. The freak outs ceased. “It wasn’t gradations,” remembers Stewart, who had always kept meticulous notes on Lawrence’s disorder and the interventions they had attempted. “It just went away. All these behaviors just disappeared.”
“There’re no words to describe it. It’s like giving me my son back,” he says. “Or in many ways, like giving me a son that I didn’t ever have.”
Because of this miraculous recovery, they are now, in 2011, finally doing trials with MS patients, despite the fact that the grant was awarded to them by the MS Society in 2004.
“Fleming [A University of Wisconsin neurologist, who is investigating TSO’s safety in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, testing the treatment as an IND under FDA’s supervision] learned of a study in Argentina in which 12 MS patients with naturally occurring helminth infections who were followed for four and a half years showed significantly less neurological damage when compared to 12 MS patients without infections.”
I’m excited to see where this research goes. I’d much rather swallow sterile roundworm eggs every 2 weeks in an effort to repopulate my intestines with the helpers it needs and flush out the parasite every few weeks than to continue to inject myself with chemicals that are foreign to my system and leave me with nasty injection site bruises and bumps all over my body.
But then again, I’m gutsy. 😉