Probiotic worm treatment may improve symptoms of colitis by restoring gut bacteria to healthy state

A new study on monkeys with chronic diarrhea that were treated by microscopic parasite worm (helminth) eggs has provided insights on how this form of therapy may heal the intestine. This condition in monkeys is similar to the inflammatory bowel diseases that affects up to 1.4 million Americans.

The study, published today in the Open-Access journal , shows that helminths can restore the balance of gut to the monkeys with chronic diarrhea. Inflammatory bowel diseases are driven by a misdirected immune response against (the microbiome) and are often associated with alterations in gut bacterial communities (known as dysbiosis).

"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 microbiology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Our findings suggest that exposure to helminths may improve symptoms by restoring the balance to the microbial communities that are attached to the intestinal wall."

Because inflammatory bowel diseases are more common in countries with developed economies and is rare in developing countries, researchers have hypothesized that endemic helminth infections in developing countries may offer protection against this disease. In animal models of autoimmunity these worms have suppressed inflammation, and clinical trials indicate that helminth therapy can be beneficial in inflammatory bowel diseases.

Juvenile monkeys kept in captivity often spontaneously develop chronic diarrhea that is difficult to treat by veterinarians. Dr. Loke and his colleagues treated 5 monkeys with with microscopic helminth eggs and collected tissue samples before and after treatment.

Tissues samples taken before treatment from sick monkeys had many more attached bacteria than healthy monkeys and the types of attached bacteria were completely altered (dysbiosis). This attachment of altered bacteria was associated with a very strong inflammatory response. After treatment, the types of bacteria attached to were much more similar to healthy monkeys, and 4 out of 5 monkeys had less diarrhea and started to gain weight.

Dr. Loke and colleagues are now embarking on a new clinical trial designed to study how pig helminth eggs (TSO) may relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis (UC) and have started enrolling patients at NYU Langone Medical Center. TSO is being used because it can be produced under pathogen free conditions certified by the FDA for clinical trials and cannot be transmitted from person to person.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers discover how worms promote healing

Dec 01, 2010

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 today in Science Translational Medicine, also i ...

Recommended for you

Global Ebola toll rises to 5,689: WHO

4 hours ago

The World Health Organization said Thursday that the global death toll from the Ebola virus had increased to 5,689 out of a total of 15,935 cases of infection, mainly in western Africa.

Ebola vaccine promising in first human trials

15 hours ago

Researchers say they're a step closer to developing an Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will be months at the earliest before it can be used in the field.

At one month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

18 hours ago

The U.S. program that requires weeks of monitoring for travelers from African countries with Ebola reaches the one-month mark Thursday. And so far, no cases of the disease have turned up.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.