Short-term infection with intestinal worms may provide long-term protection against type I diabetes (TID), suggests a study conducted by William Gause, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School. The research has been published in the journal Mucosal Immunology.
The incidence of TID — a form of the disease in which the body’s own immune cells attack the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas — is relatively low in developing countries. One explanation for this phenomenon is the prevalence of chronic intestinal worm infections, which dampen the self-aggressive T cells that cause diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. Understanding how T cells are tamed during worm infection could lead to new strategies to control these inflammatory diseases.
Dr. Gause’s team, including Pankaj Mishra, PhD, in his laboratory, and David Bleich, MD, now shows that a two-week infection with the intestinal worm H. polygyrus (cured using oral drugs) prompted T cells to produce the cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10, which acted independently to provide lasting protection against TID in mice.
A similar approach using eggs from another parasitic worm, Trichuris suis, is currently being tested in clinical trials in patients with Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The studies presented in this paper now provide potential mechanisms explaining the potency of parasite-induced control of inflammatory diseases.
Health-e-Solutions comment: Now this is a novel approach. It attempts to answer the question of why the incidence of type 1 diabetes, and other chronic autoimmune diseases is lower in latitudes closer to the equator. It is only a mouse study, so much more research is required. It remains to be seen if the protective effect lasts long enough to make enduring an intestinal worm infection worth the effort! I think I will stick to the Health-e-Solutions lifestyle for now.
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