Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How worms promote healing: Findings identify potential strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases

Date:
December 1, 2010
Source:
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
Summary:
A new study involving a man who swallowed worm eggs to relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis sheds light on how worms promote healing in the intestine. The study also identifies potential targets for more conventional ways of treating colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

A new study involving a man who swallowed worm eggs to relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis sheds light on how worms promote healing in the intestine. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, also identifies potential targets for more conventional ways of treating colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

"The idea for treating colitis with worms is not new, but how this therapy might work remains unclear," says the study's senior corresponding author, P'ng Loke, PhD, assistant professor of medical parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Our findings suggest that infection with this particular parasite increases or restores mucus production in the colon, providing symptomatic relief."

A chronic disease, ulcerative colitis is characterized by open sores or ulcers in the lining of the colon. The disease is estimated to affect 600,000 Americans, according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, and the most common symptoms are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. The cause is unknown, but studies points to defects in immune regulation. Disruption of mucus production is often associated with severe symptoms.

Colitis is common in North America and Northern Europe, where helminth (parasitic worm) infections are rare. Conversely, the disease is rare in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where helminth infections are endemic, leading researchers to hypothesize that the worms offer protection against this inflammatory bowel disease. In animal models of autoimmunity these worms have suppressed inflammation, and clinical trials indicate that helminth therapy can be beneficial in relieving symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases.

To gain a better understanding of how such therapy works, Dr. Loke and his colleagues analyzed a series of blood and tissue samples taken from a 34-year-old man living in California with ulcerative colitis who ingested Trichuris trichiura eggs (a roundworm that infects the lower intestine) after having researched the scientific literature. After several months, his condition improved dramatically and he remained in remission for almost three years. A subsequent cycle of self-treatment with the worm eggs achieved similar results.

Tissues samples taken when the patient had active disease were found to contain high numbers of a type of immune cell (CD4+ T cells) that produces an inflammatory protein called interleukin-17. Tissue samples taken after exposure to the worms, when the disease was in remission, contained an abundance of T cells that produce interleukin-22 (IL-22), a protein important in mucosal healing. To expel the worm, the researchers note, the immune system appears to activate specialized cells that increase mucous production in the entire colon.

"In essence, the worms trigger a big sneeze of the gut, which may have a beneficial side effect for ulcerative colitis," says Dr. Loke, who does not advocate helminth therapy. "The problem is that these worms themselves can cause harm and damage the gut. The individual in this study is lucky to have responded so well, but for other people the worm infection may exacerbate bowel inflammation," he says.

It is impossible right now to predict who might be helped and who might be harmed by infection with these worms. Studies are underway, adds Dr. Loke, using a worm that infects pigs (T. suis) to treat colitis, which should be less risky.

Dr. Loke's co-investigators include Mara J. Broadhurst, Joseph M. McCune, Uma Mahadevan, and James H. McKerrow of the University of California, San Francisco; and Jacqueline M. Leung and Vikram Kashyap of NYU Langone Medical Center.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. J. Broadhurst, J. M. Leung, V. Kashyap, J. M. McCune, U. Mahadevan, J. H. McKerrow, P. Loke. IL-22 CD4 T Cells Are Associated with Therapeutic Trichuris trichiura Infection in an Ulcerative Colitis Patient. Science Translational Medicine, 2010; 2 (60): 60ra88 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001500

Cite This Page:

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine. "How worms promote healing: Findings identify potential strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201142501.htm>.
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine. (2010, December 1). How worms promote healing: Findings identify potential strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201142501.htm
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine. "How worms promote healing: Findings identify potential strategies for treating inflammatory bowel diseases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201142501.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins