Parasite Therapy for Crohn's and Colitis?
08/08/04 03:00 PM
Loc: Seattle, WA
Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D.,
"The Alternative Approach", Daily Herald, August 2, 2004
Is it possible that an intestinal parasite holds a key to the treatment and possible cure for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)? Research at the University of Iowa suggests that infection by specific intestinal parasites may reduce the pain and inflammation associated with these serious diseases.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are part of a group of chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The cause is unknown.
Crohn's disease is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, dehydration, anemia and weight loss. In the most severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected
parts of the bowel.
IBD is becoming more common and our success at ridding our bodies of parasites may be to blame. With sanitation, better food and medications, intestinal parasites are relatively rare in industrialized societies, and that is a good thing. However, by making our lives increasingly hygienic, we may have made ourselves more susceptible to auto-immune diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative
A successful parasite is very good at avoiding detection by the host. Parasites that live in the intestines, such as whip worms, or in the blood, such as malaria, survive by manipulating the host's self defense mechanisms. They are able to depress the immune system in a way that limits detection and response. They are able to moderate the
immune response in a way that may also prevent IBD.
IBD is often treated with powerful medications that suppress the immune response. These medications have saved the lives of many people with life-threatening Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. However, as good as these medications are, the side effects can be severe and
limit their use.
Other options are needed. Research involving intestinal parasites by Dr. Robert Summers of the University of Iowa, supported by the National Institutes of Health, may provide clues for a more natural (and effective) treatment of IBD.
In his study, 29 patients with active Crohn's disease ingested the pig whip worm, Trichuris suis. This parasite cannot multiply in the human intestine and is not transmissible from human to human. These patients
consumed the parasite every three weeks for 24 weeks. At 12 weeks, the symptoms of Crohn's disease decreased by 75 percent - and for 62 percent of the patients, the disease went into remission. At 24 weeks, the remission rate was an incredible 72.4 percent. There were no complications or adverse reactions.
In another study at the University of Iowa, patients with ulcerative colitis had a 48 percent improvement after 12 weeks, again without complications.
These response and remission rates with the pig whip worm are similar to those seen with medication, but apparently without the complications often associated with the drugs.
Now, I do not recommend infecting yourself with intestinal parasites. However, the increases we are seeing in many of the chronic diseases - heart disease, cancer, IBD, asthma, arthritis and others - are directly related to our modern lifestyle. We need to find safer solutions.
I believe that in nature everything has an antidote and that studying nature will reveal the solutions to many chronic medical problems. Parasite therapy for IBD is a novel approach.
About the Author: Patrick B. Massey M.D. Ph.D. is Medical Director for Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.
Heather is the Administrator of the IBS Message Boards. She is the author of Eating for IBS and The First Year: IBS, and the CEO of Heather's Tummy Care. Join her IBS Newsletter. Meet Heather on Facebook!