Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RNCeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects about 1 percent of the world’s population.1
In response to gluten, the intestinal lining becomes inflamed and damaged, leading to symptoms such as cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Celiac disease is a troubling condition. Repeated exposure to gluten increases the risk for diseases such as type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and even bowel cancer.2, 3, 4, 5
So far the only therapy is gluten-avoidance, which is difficult considering the ubiquitous presence of gluten in processed foods.
A new study out of Australia offers hope. The only catch is that it involves the ingestion of hookworms. The results were published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Hookworms Allowed Participants to Eat Gluten, Symptom-FreeScientists recruited 12 individuals with celiac disease and gave each 20 hookworm larvae to ingest. Over a period of 52 weeks, varying amounts of gluten were given to participants:
- 10 to 50 mg for 12 weeks
- 25 mg daily + 1 g twice weekly for 12 weeks
- 3 g daily (about 60-75 straws of spaghetti) for 2 weeks.
By the end of the trial, participants were able to eat the equivalent of a bowl of spaghetti, symptom-free.6
Samples of intestinal tissue showed beneficial changes. T-cells (immune cells) changed from being pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory.6 Larger trials are needed to confirm the benefits of hookworm therapy.
The Future of Celiac Treatment?Hookworms play an important part of our gut flora and consequently our immune systems. Due to excessive hygiene in the West, our exposure to these “bugs” has lessened considerably.
According to the Australian investigators, hookworms secrete anti-inflammatory proteins which help to tame an overactive immune system. This could potentially help to treat inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
The goal is to produce medications out of these proteins so that individuals with celiac disease can enjoy a normal diet.
What Do You Think?How far would you go to treat celiac disease? Would you consider hookworm therapy? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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