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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009;666:157-66.

Helminthic therapy: using worms to treat immune-mediated disease.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009, USA.


There is an epidemic of immune-mediated disease in highly-developed industrialized countries. Such diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and asthma increase in prevalence as populations adopt modern hygienic practices. These practices prevent exposure to parasitic worms (helminths). Epidemiologic studies suggest that people who carry helminths have less immune-mediated disease. Mice colonized with helminths are protected from disease in models of colitis, encephalitis, Type 1 diabetes and asthma. Clinical trials show that exposure to helminths reduce disease activity in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. This chapter reviews some of the work showing that colonization with helminths alters immune responses, against dysregulated inflammation. These helminth-host immune interactions have potentially important implications for the treatment of immune-mediated diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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