More and more people have subscribed to David Stractan’s theory known as the hygiene hypothesis, and now a small but growing number of people suffering from certain illnesses have taken hold of helminthic therapy to cure there ills.

Stractan describes the hygiene hypothesis by essentially saying that people in the West in particular, because of good sanitation, vaccines and hygiene are not exposed to certain infectious microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and parasites) in childhood that make them more susceptible to allergies and autoimmune diseases.

In contrast, proponents of this theory say that many countries in Africa, South America and Asia do not have high levels of these type of diseases and disorders because they are exposed to parasites, probiotics and other gut flora.

A treatment/therapy not approved in the United States for allergies and autoimmune/immune issues like eczema, hay fever, inflammatory bowel disease and a host of others is called helminthic therapy.

How does it work?

According to University of Iowa gastroenterologist, David Elliot, MD, the helminth, or roundworm (most often used types are hookworms and whipworm) when attacked by the human immune system, the worms send out a protective “cocktail” of chemicals that calms down the immune response. Because of this slowed immune response, it appears that allergic reactions and inflammatory diseases happen less often.

Is there a danger in purposely infecting yourself with these parasites?

One company out of Europe, Autoimmune Therapies, says there is little to no danger from small, therapeutic doses of hookworm or whipworm.

On the website for Autoimmune Therapies, they even quote the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where they advise against doctors treating light infections with these parasites.

Owner Jasper Lawrence also goes on to say that this therapy is well tolerated and maintaining a healthy diet while using hookworms poses no risk.

In addition, because of the specific life cycles of Necator americanus (hookworm) and Trichuris trichuria (whipworm), the initial dose you take will be all the parasite you’ll get since they will not reproduce and increase in numbers.

Lawrence also goes on to say side effects are minor; maybe an itch where the hookworm enters and a day or two of mild diarrhea.

Of course there are critics of this “therapy” who say that deliberate infection with helminthes “makes absolutely no sense at all” and that it’s based on “flawed reasoning”.

However, there are those who swear by it. Here are a couple of comments from another web site:

“My first dose of 35 hookworms greatly improved my multiple chemical sensitivity symptoms (rash, irritability, and restless leg syndrome) and my asthma. I have high hopes that my second dose (of 35 more) will bring further improvements. Dr. Hotez’s arguments against helminthic therapy make no sense: he says helminthic therapy is dangerous because helminths are dangerous in the wild. But the dangers in the wild are the result of hundreds or thousands of worms in each person, compared to the dozens of worms in helminthic therapy. And the worms cannot reproduce in the body (they must live part of their life cycle in the soil) so there is NO danger of over-dosing, or of passing on the worms (because toilets eliminate the soil portion of the life cycle and end the spread of worms.)”

“I was also able to achieve remission from Crohn’s after getting hookworms and whipworms.”

I am not here to support or oppose helminthic therapy, just reporting that it’s out there and there has been some research done on it. You need to do your own research and judge for yourself.