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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Hookworms - A "Natural" Multiple Sclerosis Treatment?

By March 11, 2009

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Hookworms, little tiny parasitic worms, are being investigated as a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis. The idea is this: people infected with hookworms experience a suppression of the immune system. That suppression may be enough to slow the rate of relapse or even modify existing symptoms.

What happens in the study, being conducted at the University of Nottingham and funded with 400,000 pounds, is that people with multiple sclerosis will be infected with 25 hookworms through a patch placed on the skin (it is painless). Nine months later those worms are flushed from the people's bodies. The good news is that it is very safe and very cheap.

A prior study showed that people with parasite infections have fewer relapses than the parasite-free. If the study results are good, this would be an incredibly inexpensive way to treat and help people with multiple sclerosis.

I'm wondering what everyone out there thinks about this. Frankly, the idea of parasites in my body hits me with a certain "gross-out" factor, but I'm not real fond of my daily injection either. What about you, would you think about using parasites to treat multiple sclerosis? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Further reading: Worm Soup? Intestinal Parasites Protect Against Multiple Sclerosis Relapses

Comments
March 11, 2009 at 8:04 am
(1) Angel Negron Jr says:

Personally, given the alternatives and what MS could potentially do to me, I wouldn’t mind the little critters running around inside of me (provided its safe) if it means me being able to have a better quality of life. It’d get some getting used to the idea, but it can’t be worse than having MS.

March 11, 2009 at 11:03 am
(2) J. Lamar Freed says:

Given the side effect profile of many of the drugs PWMS take already, I suspect having hookworms would be rather a benign treatment for most of us. I would be concerned about the employment repercussions, however — how would you like to go to your boss and say “I can’t work with food or around children or people who are immune compromised because I happen to have a therapeutic parasite?” There also might be a social stigma — people are just learning that MS is not contagious. What if people now assume that most people with MS have hookworms? It might raise the stigma of having MS if it became a common treatment.

March 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm
(3) Janis Piersons says:

As a former Public Health Nutritionist, I suspect you’d be surprised at how many people in the USA already harbor parasites. One may catch them from a bathroom doorknob. Everyone needs to wash hands after using the toilet.
As for a ‘stigma’ about MS and parasites, I’m still surprised at how many people I meet who don’t even know what MS is.
Do workers at fast food chains get tested for hookworms? Simple proper handwashing will prevent contagion.

March 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm
(4) Juliet Larson says:

Yeah, I sure would take on some harmless parasites if it stopped or reversed my symptoms! I take copaxone every day, which isn’t THAT bad, and thankfully haven’t had any major episodes. We all have some weird buggy/type things living on/in us invisibly – why not something beneficial???

March 18, 2009 at 12:39 pm
(5) ANNA says:

I would take parasites over an injection in a hot minute. I really hope this is offered as a therapy in the near future. I know that they use leeches in medicine why not hookworms.

February 5, 2011 at 9:22 am
(6) Dawn Martin says:

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about parasites and heard about this study. I forwarded the podcast to my girl friend who has suffered with MS since she was 22, she’s now 34 and in rough shape. I was at her house last night talking about it with her. She too was a bit weirded out by the idea of “having worms” but then asked me “How do we get me to Africa?”. I laughed and rewound the podcast for her to listen again. It mentioned a guy in California that will FeEx you a dose of hookworm. He had gone to Africa to infect himself because he had heard it would cure his allegies that had taken over his life. He has infected 85 people at the time of the podcast recording some of them being MS patiants. If you are serious in investigating this I can forward you the podcast maybe get the guys name & contact him regarding his results with the MS people he’s infected. I plan on contacting him myself for my friend just to get more info at this point. Let me know if you want the info.

March 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(7) Jess says:

If it were proven I would definitely do it in a New York instant. I am not too partial to bugs but it cured me I’d be buggy in an instant. :)

March 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm
(8) Janet B says:

Knowing that fungus/yeast/parasites do horrible things to the body (I’ve done some extensive reading on this), I would never opt for them to be placed in my body. They may help one thing, but who knows what other damage you will incur, not to mention the what you are going to have to go through to get them out, or the possible withdrawal reactions that will happen when they do get out of your system. These answers may not know for years to come!

March 18, 2009 at 7:42 pm
(9) Madonna says:

My first reaction was no way. I do not want bugs running around in my system. Then I thought if they can tell me what all the side effects and possible problems I would face were, I might consider it. This is a more natural way then some of the drugs I take to keep my MS in control.

March 20, 2009 at 11:40 pm
(10) Cathy says:

I would try hookworms if the side effects were fully explained.

April 3, 2009 at 11:17 am
(11) Sasha says:

Hookworms aren’t really communicable through poor hygiene- they need to mature for a couple of weeks in warm dirt then they enter through the skin – usually the feet. Not at all easy to pass them on.

I have MS Hookworms wouldn’t bother me. They are too small to see and low level infestations have nearly nil symptoms. Way safer than the drugs would ever be.

September 18, 2009 at 8:03 pm
(12) DC Sutliffe says:

Hookworm host rather than chemo injections and all the other nasty stuff I subject myself to in the name of “treatment.”

I would be first in line.

October 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm
(13) Ryan says:

The creatures co-evolved with humans, it is why they have this passive “calming” effect on the immune system. While in large numbers they can certainly be harmful.. they are certainly a far less dangerous treatment than many of the medications people with M.S. are going on. Parasites have been a recent topic on Radiolab, a program from WNYC public radio. I suggest the naysayers to listen to this program.

October 9, 2009 at 10:43 pm
(14) Arlene Applebaum says:

I would be very willing to recieve this treatment! The weekly injections sometimes leave me with a two day headache, and a little hookworm, without harmful affects, wouldn’t be so bad. I would however like to know how long the benifits last,and if the proceedure would have to be repeated???

December 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm
(15) George Petersen says:

I was diagnosed in 2003 with Primary Progressive MS. I am not on any interfearon drug. I attempt to eat glutin and sugar free. I have started using a walker and tire easily. I also react to “hook worm or other parasite treatment but am open to trying anything that might work. Who can I contadt to try this? Thanks.

April 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm
(16) elAnon says:

@George, Jasper Lawrence

April 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm
(17) J. Ed says:

I’d try ‘em. Is the study going to be done here or over seas only? I’ve been injecting Rebif every other day for 2 years now and I have a host of different effects and symptons I can’t begin to mention. This would be a great boon and maybe an easy fix.

August 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm
(18) Ken says:

I’m sure many people would consider this treatment but the FDA won’t let them. Hookworms are considered a “drug” and would require millions to research the efficacy and side effects. I can tell you the side effects though without charging a cent….just interview any of the millions of people who have hookworms, they can talk, as in, they are not dead. As for the efficacy, well, no one will know unless we are allowed to try it.

September 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm
(19) fsilber says:

From what I have read, the only way you can spread hookworms is through contact with your stool (and I don’t mean backless chair). Too many hookworms at once can harm your health (e.g. by making you anemic); too few won’t help sufficiently; the right number will do it.

Hookworms live only for about six months or so in your body and then they die, so you need to be re-infected with the right amount of new hookworms every few months.

Most people who have a moderate degree of hookworm infection have no noticeable symptoms from it.

October 25, 2010 at 1:20 am
(20) Daph Coop says:

Would like to try hookworms, if it stopped Primary Progressive MS. Sounds like a good idea, instead of drugs.

September 21, 2011 at 4:17 am
(21) marahsmum says:

I recently has been diagnosed with parasitic infection (worms) and have been very ill for the last 16 months. I am in the process of being treated. It was also during this time that I was diagnosed with MS. I was actually thinking that when I was totally cleansed from parasites that possibly my MS diagnosis would be incorrect. Now I read about the possibility of parasites helping MS patients. Could this have been nature’s way of helping me in the first place? Really people I have passed 100′s of these worms and am starting to feel better on day 13 of cleanse. I wouldn’t mess with then myself. They steal your nutrients especially iron and B12 and magnesium. Those deprivations can also be misconstrued as MS symptoms. I can’t wait to feel even better.

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