16 September 2007

Hookworms – a treatment for asthma?

Hookworms are a parasitic nematode worm that lives in the small intestine. It attaches itself to the lining of the small intestine and feeds on blood. Around 800 million people throughout the world are believed to have a hookworm infestation. In many cases it will cause anaemia to the host. As you can see from the picture it is a handsome fellow!

It comes as some surprise to read that research is underway to see if the hookworm can treat asthma. It is thought that the worm reduces the inflammatory part of the body's immune response which improves its survival chances. Researchers at the University of Nottingham hope the worms may prove effective against conditions where the immune system overreacts, including Asthma, Crohn's disease, hay fever and multiple sclerosis, in which the immune system overreacts


The idea for using hookworms came from scientists noticing that diseases such as Crohn's and MS are uncommon in regions where there is widespread hookworm infestation. So far results are encouraging - although far from conclusive. The team has done two small trials to work out what dose of the worms would be safe for patients. Although it was testing for safety, not efficacy, Prof Pritchard said that many of the patients in a hay fever trial had opted not to have the worms removed with tablets at the end because they had seen an improvement in their symptoms.


The team is now embarking on a larger trial in patients with asthma to work out whether the hookworms actually diminish symptoms.


Very intriguing! I wonder if I will ever be prescribed Hookwormolin instead of Ventolin!

10 comments:

Siani said...

Oh yuck. First leeches, now worms. I'll always remember a dream I had as a child. In it, my doctor prescribed some pills for me, and when I opened the bottle, my "pills" were live green caterpillars. Seems my dream wasn't so far-fetched after all!

The Lone Beader said...

That photo scares me! How can something that small have teeth that big?? LOL.

Elizabeth-W said...

Okay, so you reduce your asthma symptoms, but what other side effects come with those creatures?!
And what is my insurance going to charge me? :)

jams o donnell said...

I daresay the creen caterpilars will turn out to cure piles, Siani!

Aww just jook at it as a biig tothy grin, LB!

In large infestations, anaemia, Elizabeth. It's an intriguing idea. I wonder if it will fly. I wonder what the NHS will think...

Roger B. said...

I think I'll stick with my prescribed medication... for the time being at least!

jams o donnell said...

I will admit I would have qualms about having hookworms in my intestine too but if it is a feassible and effective treatment.....

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Since about 800 million people have these worms, Jams, it is a fair chance that you (and I) are in this group.

I hope that this fellow could get some unneeded weight of me as well ;-)

jams o donnell said...

Possible but more likely to be in underdeveloped nations, Snoopy. I think we need the good old tapeworm for our weight!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I have a bookworm at home....well, at least for the next 6 years until she reaches maturity.

I just eliminated the hookworm from my list of possible Infidel Family Pets.

jams o donnell said...

WHy does noboy want little Hooky Hookworm//Bang goes my line of merchandise!