APR 15, 2016 07:56 PM PDT

Intestinal worms to cure IBD?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
3 16 1246
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that helminth infection in the gut triggers immune responses that alter the gut microbiome, mitigating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

These results lend further support to the hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis states that the absence of parasites - due to our exceptionally hygienic lifestyle - leaves the immune system highly responsive to changes in the gut. Supporters of the hygiene hypothesis think that a lack of exposure to antigens (microorganisms, parasites, etc.) early in life prevents the immune system from developing properly. This, in turn, affects how well the body establishes immune tolerance - making people susceptible to autoimmune disease.
 
Helminth infection may prevent IBD.

In fact, there is indeed a correlation between the low incidence of parasites in the developed world and high rates of inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. According to study author P’ng Loke, “our findings are among the first to link parasites and bacteria to the origin of IBD, supporting the hygiene hypothesis”.

In their study, published in Science, the NYU researchers infected mice with helminths (intestinal worms) and characterized changes in the gut microbiome. What they saw was striking - nearly a thousand-fold decrease in bacteria belonging to the genus Bacteroides, and these bacteria are associated with IBD. The helminth infection also increased the number of species from the class Clostridia. These bacteria are associated with anti-inflammatory effects.

So, how do intestinal worms prevent IBD? The researchers think that the immune response to the worms produces an environment that is favorable to Clostridia, allowing these cells to grow. At the same time, this environment may be inhospitable to Bacteroides.

The study also reports that people living in rural Malaysia have relatively high rates of worm infection, low rates of IBD, and more Clostridia than Bacteroides in their guts. When these people were treated for the worm infections, they developed more Bacteroides than Clostridia in their microbiomes.

These findings could be the basis for future IBD treatments that involve treating patients with immune-stimulating drugs, mimicking the response to a worm infection.

Sources: Science, Science Daily, Wikipedia
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 14, 2018
Immunology
MAY 14, 2018
The Immune System's Antibodies Target Multiple Microbes
For the first time, scientists found that antibodies produced by the immune system can target multiple microbes, as opposed to just one type of microbe. Fr
MAY 14, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 14, 2018
Understanding how the Microbiome is Built
Our body usually acts to kill invading microbes. So researchers wanted to know how the gut microbe gets around those defenses.
MAY 22, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 22, 2018
Deadly Bacterium can Hijack Neurons
Strep throat is caused by a common bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes. That bacterium can also cause flesh-eating disease.
MAY 31, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 31, 2018
Ulcer-causing Microbe Found to Disrupt Mitochondria
Knowing how H. pylori establishes an infection will help develop better treatments for the pathogen.
JUN 23, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 23, 2018
In a First, Keystone Virus Sickens a Person
A teenage boy in North Central Florida presented with symptoms that defied diagnosis.
AUG 02, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
AUG 02, 2018
The Genetic Hotspots That Can Lead to Cancer
In some of our body's tissues, cells have to replicate many times. That introduces a chance for new genetic errors every time.
Loading Comments...