The HELMINTH treatment
Maybe we have gotten ourselves too clean and this has given rise to a vast increase in autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, MS, and asthma and allergies. Should we reconsider using antibacteria hand-wipes as often as we do? Soap and water in many instances will do.
Joel Weinstock had a perfectly good career as a parasitologist in the early 1990s when he and Elliott, then colleagues at the University of Iowa, noticed the lack of autoimmune diseases in the tropics. They knew about the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that early exposure to germs is crucial for normal immune function later on. And the two knew about the rise of autoimmunity in the West. “We asked, ‘What’s missing in developed countries?’” Elliott says. “We still had viruses and bacteria, but we were missing a whole class—helminths—which used to be universal.” Lab work and tests in animals soon convinced Elliott and Weinstock that helminth infection could quell inflammation. By 2000 they were speculating openly that failure to get parasitic infections might contribute to inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
A fun 1920 film by the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation to educate the Southern rural communities in the US about the hookworm and public health issues. It was such a success that it was translated into 3 languages and distributed to 18 countries.
The new panacea?…for some a bit hard to swallow.