Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hookworms May Cure Allergies

2nd\NE Quadrant: The Approval Matrix

By Jo Revill\The Observer

The experts [A team of British scientists] wanted to see if there would be any unpleasant or dangerous side effects from the worm, Ancylostoma duodenale, so they made the bold decision to allow their own bodies to be infected. Each scientist had to stick some of the tiny hookworm larvae on to their skin with a plaster and wait for the larvae to wriggle through the skin into the lungs, through the bloodstream and into the intestine, where they would produce eggs. The eggs are excreted, but once the adult hookworms are in the gut they start to suck blood from the walls of the intestine.

The theory is that this infection triggers an immune response which helps to 'dampen down' the over-reaction of the rest of the system, which is why patients with allergies such as asthma develop symptoms.

Professor David Pritchard and his team at Nottingham University's School of Pharmacy administered different amounts of the hookworms to themselves to prove that it would be safe. Pritchard himself stuck 50 of the larvae onto his skin.

'The trials proved that at a low 'dosage' of 10 worms the infection was safe. Last week the first patients arrived at the school of pharmacy to have the hookworm larvae administered, to see if it would quell hay fever symptoms. Pritchard said: 'The pollen season is coming in spring and we hope that we might see an alleviation of symptoms in some of the patients who received the worms. If we think there's some indication of success, we would move on to asthma patients.'


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