Parasitic Worms Could Become Basis for Type 1 Therapy

Nobody knows just how the worms confer their protection.

| Apr 12, 2010

The idea of parasitic worms causes a shudder in most people. The very thought of some wriggly segmented thing latching onto an internal organ and ransacking it for nourishment is not pleasant. But the scientists who study the creatures may be on to a whole new tack in the fight against type 1 diabetes. It turns out that people who suffer from parasitic worms experience an unexpected beneficial side effect: the worms exert control over the human immune system that seems to protect against several inflammatory diseases, including asthma, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, allergies, and... type 1 diabetes.

According to an article published in the April 9, 2010, online edition of Technology Review, produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both humans and animals afflicted with parasitic worms experience fewer allergies and immune diseases. And it's true that as modern medicine and sanitation in wealthy nations have reduced the acquisition of parasitic worms, the incidence of allergies and inflammatory ailments has increased.

In the article, "Fighting Allergies by Mimicking Parasitic Worms," one Tufts University researcher theorizes that the human association with parasitic worms goes so far back that the relationship between them became mutually beneficial rather than combative. In exchange for access to all the goodies of the human digestive system and other internal organs, the worms conferred immunity or resistance to several diseases that are almost epidemic in modern times.

Nobody knows just how the worms confer their protection. Scientists know that when people become infected by parasitic worms, it spurs an allergic response and levels of an antibody called IgE (immunoglobulin E) go up. In people without worms, excessive IgE binds with immune cells, making them spill their contents, including histamines, into the bloodstream, which leads to allergy symptoms. And yet, people with worms never reach this last stage. What interferes with it? One theory is that the worms produce an enzyme that interferes with receptors on the IgE antibody. When IgE attempts to bind to immune cells, it can't, so the cells never receive the command to dump histamines.

Research into how worms are able to manipulate the human immune system is just beginning. It's possible that future investigations could move along two tracks. In one, scientists may try to duplicate the beneficial effects of parasitic worms in patients who are not actually infected with worms. In the second, scientists may try to alter the worms so that they can live in humans and confer immunity without causing concomitant damage.

* * *

Source:

Technology Review

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Health Research, Research, Type 1 Issues


Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (0)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Comments


Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...


Username: Password:
Comment:
©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.