Thursday, 5 July 2012

Eating a worm for science!

Parasites, worms, maggots and leaches…nauseating terms that gross the majority of us out! However if you’re speaking to a biotherapy researcher, these terms relate to possible therapy options for an array of illnesses including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies. But surely using maggots as therapy is such an archaic idea?! Well actually…no! Hospitals still buy supplies of maggots from “farms” and grow them under sterile conditions till that glorious day, when the maggots get a nice feast!

The International Biotherapy Society supports research into the use of living organisms as novel therapies for the treatment of human and animal diseases, hosting conferences around the world (where scientists ultimately discuss how they’re going to convince the public that swallowing a worm will help them!).

Although the notion hasn’t been totally rejected by the public; many people have embraced biotherapy due to individual negative responses to clinical and pharmaceutical therapies. Helminth-therapy for auto-immune disorders for example, is currently available at a few private clinics around the world. Autoimmune Therapies is just one of the established companies offering Helminth-therapy to the public stating that "Helminthic therapy is just one step in restoring the natural environment in our bodies". Check out on their website for recent research publications and patient accounts!

However, medical councils, doctors and biotherapy specialists are not encouraging people to abandon modern medicine completely! Continuing this blog’s apparent theme on Helminth-therapy, the decision to use Helminths as a therapy is not as simple as popping a pill and does entail an element of lifestyle change. The impact that such therapies have on our immune system is something that cannot be opted for unnecessarily or without thought. Worm Therapy, a Mexico-based company highlight on their website how variable the success of this therapy can be ( Theoretically worms dampen down your immune system and this will either work for you or not based on individual differences. The overall success of this therapy, for example the time it takes for the worms to start working in terms of symptom alleviation or how many times you need to be infected, is dependent on you, your disease and your immune status.

So will we see an introduction of the wiggly worm as a viable and effective therapeutic option in the foreseeable future or is it doomed to fail because of the nation’s squeamish nature? Would you swallow a worm if an illness you had left you house-bound and depressed or would you rather stick to the safety-tested drugs that lie available on our pharmacy shelves? 


  1. I'd be happy to try worms - I have ulcerative colitis - but the cost seems prohibitive. Do you know of any trials I could get on to?

    1. I am personally unaware of any trials that take on candidates for biotherapy. Best thing to do however if you are interested in trials is to keep your eye out for any medical trials that are advertising for candidates. You can sign up to a company and if they have any trials pertaining to that illness they will ask you. You can ask a GP/Doctor see who they recommend.