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

November 15, 2012

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.

Explore further: NYU School of Medicine announces new clinical trial for ulcerative colitis

Related Stories

NYU School of Medicine announces new clinical trial for ulcerative colitis

August 7, 2012
A new clinical trial designed to study how worm eggs may relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis (UC) will begin enrolling patients at NYU School of Medicine's Clinical and Translational Science Institute. This unusual therapy ...

Parasitologist espouses using parasitic worms for treatment of autoimmune diseases

November 8, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Doctor Joel Weinstock, a parasitologist at Tufts Medical Center in a commentary piece published in the journal Nature, describes work that he and colleagues have been involved in that focuses on studying ...

Mayo Clinic develops new way to rate severity of colitis, a common cause of diarrhea

October 31, 2011
Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new way to assess a common cause of chronic diarrhea, microscopic colitis, using the Microscopic Colitis Disease Activity Index. A study describing the index was released today during ...

Bacteria-immune system 'fight' can lead to chronic diseases, study suggests

August 2, 2012
Results from a study conducted at Georgia State University suggest that a "fight" between bacteria normally living in the intestines and the immune system, kicked off by another type of bacteria, may be linked to two types ...

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 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.