Evidence for the use of helminthic therapy to treat Asthma
Asthma, according to WebMD, affects approximately 22 million Americans, and as any sufferer can tell you modern medicine offers little in the way of truly effective immunotherapy. A common response to the idea of helminthic therapy when it is first encountered is "if this is so great why haven't I heard about it until now?” The answer is that it is a new approach to immunotherapy that until recently was only available at the research centers where it is being studied.
But, the seemingly radical idea that helminths (probiotic worms) might be related in some way to asthma is not a new one(1). As early as 1913 Herrick observed that “Common to both bronchial asthma and roundworm infestation is an increase of the eosinophils (eosinophils in a normal person indicate infection with a helminth) of the blood. One day we'll ask the significance of this eosinophilia in this association.” Unfortunately for asthma sufferers it wasn't until 1986, almost 75 years later, with the publication of the hygiene hypothesis by Godrey in the Lancet(2)(3) that investigation really got under way.
Today, the hygiene hypothesis is a widely accepted theory explaining why asthma and similar disorders are increasingly common in the industrialized nations but remain very rare in the third world where helminthic infections are still common. As a consequence helminthic therapy is increasingly being studied for a variety of disorders, including asthma and allergy.(4)(5)(6)(4)(5)(6)
Many of our clients regard their results as miraculous (see below), but it is important to understand that helminthic therapy is not a cure, and that at best it can result in complete remission. Although all your symptoms will disappear if you experience remission the benefit depends upon continuing to host the probiotic helminth. Not everyone experiences total remission. It may be necessary to continue to avoid factors that triggered asthma attacks in the past, such as cat dander, if you want to avoid asthma altogether. Results can be very good, but this is no magic bullet and it does not work for everyone.
With those qualifications our experience, and those of our clients, are very encouraging, and support the observations and studies of scientists. Helminthic therapy can be very effective in reducing or preventing asthma.(7)(8).
Below you will find personal accounts as well as science in support of the use of helminthic therapy to prevent asthma. If you prefer to skip our client stories you can jump ahead to the science.
To protect the privacy of our clients we use pseudonyms, unless permission to do otherwise has been given in writing. If you would like to speak to some of our clients please contact us and we will put you in touch with them.
Chris A. - Asthma and Seasonal Allergies
I am forty years old as of writing this in early 2008 and had asthma and seasonal allergies from the age of 28, 12 years ago, until recently. I did not suffer from other allergies except for one unusual one. I am a surfer and always get bad sinusitis from surfing, especially when there is a red tide. For those of you who live inland red tides are an algae bloom that makes the water appear a reddish brown color (and stink).
Over the past twelve years I had tried a ton of over the counter and prescription stuff to treat my asthma and hay fever: You name it I took it. Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, Singulair, Albuterol, prednisone, etc. None really worked except to reduce my symptoms for a short time, but I was still miserable. And the side effects of the only good treatment, prednisone, scare me to death.
I could not be consistent with working out either. Having to start over constantly makes exercise even harder than it would normally be. With my asthma getting worse every year I needed an answer and not more garbage that didn’t work.
I have known Jasper since I was eighteen, for twenty-two years. I heard from a mutual friend about what he was doing with worms, and, although it sounded crazy, I decided to look into it in late 2007.
After a bunch of thinking, and talking it over with my girl friend, I decided to give it a try. Honestly, I only did it because I was desperate. I don’t think anyone is exactly thrilled about the idea of infecting themselves with worms, I know I wasn’t, and neither was my partner (haha!). But my doctor had nothing that worked and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
I was inoculated with the worms in late November in Santa Cruz.
It was pretty simple. My forearm was shaved in a small area to allow the bandage to stick and it, and the invisible worm larvae it carried was taped to my skin. Then we wrapped it up to keep it in place for a day.
I never got an itch or a rash, and I started to think that I had not gotten the worms, that maybe they had died or a mistake had been made.
I didn’t get any side effects either, from the first dose of ten worm larvae, or from the other two doses of 20 worm larvae each in late January and late Feb. My schedule was hurried up because I did not get side effects.
Because my asthma is caused by pollen, and cats and dogs, it is hard to say with for sure exactly when I got better from the helminthic therapy. My asthma usually comes and goes with the seasons. I first noticed it was gone when I went surfing. Exercise used to cause an asthma almost every time. In later January I started to notice that I was not getting short of breath when I worked out or surfed. My workout partner, the one who turned me on to the idea, says the way I breathe is totally different and I exercise a lot harder.
Since I live in Northern California we have had spring since early March. I have been free of asthma and allergies for the first time in twelve years. Even better is that this is the time of year when it is usually the worst.
I could not be happier that I made the decision to get treated with helminthic therapy and that I was able to overcome my fears, and those of my partner. I still get the occasional allergy symptom, but it is nothing. I also cough with a barking sound every now and them, but no short breath, no attacks, nothing that makes me aware of my breathing. Stoked!
I know it sounds weird and disgusting to infect yourself with a bunch of worms, but it worked for me and now I don’t even know I have them.
To be able to just breath without thinking about it is fantastic. No more misery. I would take helminthic therapy over that any day.
Thank you Jasper for giving me my life back.
David D. - Asthma
My five year slide into asthma hell is over.
The past two years was a bad spiral into over using the emergency inhaler. It was at times almost constant need for albuterol. This stopped in late summer 2008 (along with the US economy and the stock market! ).
This was three or so months after my May inoculation of 50 or 60 parasites in Santa Cruz.
I picked up using the steroid inhaler QVAR, in late august again, (after failing in it's use a year before.)
I gave up the first time after a few staggered weeks of ineffectual results. It made my need to cough worse at times, so I let go early I guess.
The funny thing, is Qvar is supposed to take several weeks to get things under control, but my need for athsma emergency inhaler virtually stopped the next day. I kept using Qvar, thinking, why stop a good thing --? After years of being out of control, you don't want to let go of any kind of relief.
I went on using this once in the morning and once at night as a preventative through the first of the year.
But I kept wondering – wow that's weird. It stopped the first day. That's just not the way the steroid is supposed to work.
So after four months of blessed relief, I thought okay, try things without the qvar. Maybe it was a fluke, a timing coincidence?
So I have indeed stopped using Qvar for the past three months. And I no longer need the albuterol either.
I pretty much breathe fine. Or at least as good (or bad) as I used to breathe ten years ago.
This is within certain limits. I am able to walk briskly for an hour. I can moderately and slowly jog for maybe 10 minutes. I can run fast for a few hundred yards. All without severe windpipe constriction, wheeze or need to gasp.
I have however noticed a little bit of tightening if I push these limits. I am not complaining, just noting it. If I try more strenuous exertion, real up and down basketball for example, I feel the smart thing is to take a rest at 5 minutes. I can feel a little hint of barely a tiny wheeze. So I have not tried yet to go past this limit yet.
But the difference in my life is night and day. I am walking regularly, and cutting firewood, and playing ball with my son, and feeling like I can make it through the day without medical inhalation.
Anyway, this is great news, just amazing, and I want to add one more vote to the circumstantial evidence that the hygiene hypothesis is clearly something that can give a chance to everyone. Not for all cases and all things, but better than a life, and eventual death by advair, and qvar and albuterol, etc.
Bless big medicine for having these drugs, but bless you more jasper for stepping out in little wads of doo-doo, time and time again.
Todd Troutman - Allergies and Asthma
Jasper Lawrence - Asthma & Allergies
My wedding day
I am the founder of Autoimmune Therapies and my first client. My name is Jasper Lawrence, I was 41 when I first tried helminthic therapy with hookworm in 2005, I am married and live in Santa Cruz, California.
I first learned of the possibility that hookworm could be used to treat disorders of the immune system or involving inflammation in the summer of 2004 on a trip with my daughters to England. I remember the first night after having read about what I came to know as helminthic therapy experiencing "wormy" dreams. Despite a very restless and slithery sleep, in the morning I was just as resolved to try helminthic therapy based on hookworm.
After exhaustively exploring every alternative avenue to obtain hookworm that I could think of I went to Cameroon to obtain hookworm (as described here) Afterwards I realized in talking about my experiences, and publishing them on Kuro5hin.org, that many others who suffered as I had would be willing to try the treatment, if they did not have to risk their lives by duplicating my adventure in Cameroon. This web site and the clinic behind it are the result.
I have hosted three different populations of hookworm, and each one has resulted in complete remission of my asthma and my hay fever. Despite that, and all the scientific evidence, many people I know or have met are convinced that at best it is the placebo effect and at worst that I am a charlatan. Many are so repulsed by the idea that they cannot even begin to look at the science or my experiences.
More happily many can see past their visceral reaction to the idea of intestinal worms to the science, or support my decision on principle.
In each of the three instances of deliberate infection with hookworm I was asthma and allergy free within fourteen weeks of infection.
The first infection was with the species Ancylostoma Duodenale obtained from Cameroon. The second two populations were and are Necator Americanus. After adjusting my infection level after returning from Cameroon I was able to achieve remission with Ancylostoma. But that species of hookworm has two disadvantages (from the point of view of the client). A. Duodenale only lives for about six to nine months, so frequent reinfections are required (this of course would be an advantage from the point-of-view of a business). The second drawback is that it takes approximately six times as much blood as Necator. So, having proved to my satisfaction that it worked for me I eliminated Ancylostoma and went in search of Necator.
I was able to inoculate myself with Necator, but only after having traveled abroad in search of them three times. I had underestimated how easy they are to find because of my luck in Cameroon. It took almost a year and about $20,000 to accomplish. That first infection with Necator was crudely obtained. Although more refined than my methods in Cameroon I could not accurately measure my dose with the equipment I was able to take with me to the tropics. Although I did achieve remission I wanted to know what the side effects were, and to know with certainty how many I hosted. So I gave myself a massive dose to be sure that I would get the side effects and could therefore speak about them based on experience.
With that dose I achieved remission for my asthma and allergies again, and I enjoyed that for a further six weeks after terminating my hookworm infection. That is their protective effect continued for about six weeks after I killed them all off. Once my asthma started to return I decided I would slowly build up to 100 organisms in 10 organism increments every two weeks. I started to see an improvement at eight weeks, and by week fourteen I was definitely in remission again. This time I experienced no side effects, except the rash. This was predicted by the literature. There is a study that describes the experiences of a middle-aged man given two doses of 50 N. Americanus L3 larvae some months apart. The second dose resulted in only a rash.
I am often asked about the experiences of my clients, and, for this therapy ever to be accepted and practiced as it should be, in the US and Europe, those it helps are going to have to stand up and be counted. But, given the reactions I have encountered, quite sensibly none of those we have helped want to be named. It was for this reason that I have decided to share my experiences here and to name myself.
Helminthic Therapy & Asthma: Science
For a copy of the full text of any papers here, and many others, please contact us being sure to name the disease, or subject, you would like the papers to investigate.
Inflammation and the genes, molecules, and biological pathways that lead to inflammatory processes influence many important and disparate biological processes and disease states that are quite often not generally considered classical inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. These include development, reproduction, aging, tumor development and tumor rejection, cardiovascular pathologies, metabolic disorders, as well as neurological and psychiatric disorders. This paper compares parallel aspects of autism and inflammatory disorders with an emphasis on asthma. These comparisons include epidemiological, morphometric, molecular, and genetic aspects of both disease types, contributing to a hypothesis of autism in the context of the immune based hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis is meant to address the apparent rise in the prevalence of autism in the population. Full Text Free Download
There are close parallels between inflammation associated with allergic disease and that caused by infections with helminth parasites. Both allergy and helminth infections are associated with elevated levels of IgE, tissue eosinophilia and mastocytosis, and CD4+ T cells that preferentially secrete the Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13. There is good evidence that the expression of inflammation caused by helminth infections can be modulated by the host immune response , and that the failure of the expression of similar mechanisms among individuals predisposed to allergy may be responsible for the clinical expression of allergic disease . Further, there is accumulating evidence that helminth infections, particularly those caused by intestinal helminth parasites (or geohelminths) may be capable of modulating the expression of allergic disease. This review will examine the evidence for such a modulatory role of intestinal helminth infections (geohelminths) and will provide evidence that the expression of allergic inflammation in different regions of the Tropics may depend partly on local differences in the endemicity of geohelminth infections. Full Text Free Download
Latterly, the Hygiene Hypothesis has been extended to also incorporate autoimmune diseases in general. Amongst the various infectious agents, a particular emphasis has been put on the interaction between parasitic worms and humans. Worm parasites have co-evolved with the mammalian immune system for many millions of years and during this time, they have developed extremely effective strategies to modulate and evade host defences and so maintain their evolutionary fitness. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the human immune system has been shaped by its relationship with parasitic worms and this may be a necessary requirement for maintaining our immunological health. Full Text Free Download
Allergic diseases mediated by T helper type (Th) 2 cell immune responses are rising dramatically in most developed countries. Exaggerated Th2 cell reactivity could result, for example, from diminished exposure to Th1 cell–inducing microbial infections. Epidemiological studies, however, indicate that Th2 cell–stimulating helminth parasites may also counteract allergies, possibly by generating regulatory T cells which suppress both Th1 and Th2 arms of immunity. We therefore tested the ability of the Th2 cell–inducing gastrointestinal nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus to influence experimentally induced airway allergy to ovalbumin and the house dust mite allergen Der p 1. Inflammatory cell infiltrates in the lung were suppressed in infected mice compared with uninfected controls. Suppression was reversed in mice treated with antibodies to CD25. Most notably, suppression was transferable with mesenteric lymph node cells (MLNC) from infected animals to uninfected sensitized mice, demonstrating that the effector phase was targeted. MLNC from infected animals contained elevated numbers of CD4+ CD25+, Foxp3+, T cells, higher TGF-Beta expression, and produced strong interleukin (IL)-10 responses to parasite antigen. However, MLNC from IL-10–deficient animals transferred suppression to sensitized hosts, indicating that IL-10 is not the primary modulator of the allergic response. Suppression was associated with CD4+ T cells from MLNC, with the CD4+CD25+ marker defining the most active population. These data support the contention that helminth infections elicit a regulatory T cell population able to down-regulate allergen induced lung pathology in vivo.PMID: 16275759
Underdeveloped nations are relatively protected from the worldwide asthma epidemic; the hygiene hypothesis suggests this is due to suppression of Th2-mediated inflammation by increased exposure to pathogens and their products. Although microbial exposures can promote Th2-suppressing Th1 responses, even Th2-skewing infections, such as helminths, appear to suppress atopy, suggesting an alternate explanation for these observations. To investigate whether induction of regulatory responses by helminths may counter allergic inflammation, we examined the effects of helminth infection in a murine model of atopic asthma. We chose Heligosomoides polygyrus, a gastrointestinal nematode, as the experimental helminth; this worm does not enter the lung in its life cycle. We found that H. polygyrus infection suppressed allergen-induced airway eosinophilia, bronchial hyperreactivity, and in vitro allergen-recall Th2 responses in an IL-10-dependent manner; total and OVA-specific IgE, however, were increased by worm infection. Finally, helminth-infected mice were protected against eosinophilic inflammation induced by adoptive transfer of OVA-stimulated CD4+ cells, and transfer of cells from helminth-infected/OVA-exposed mice suppressed OVA-induced eosinophilic inflammation, suggesting a role for regulatory cells. Increased CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ cells were found in thoracic lymph nodes of helminth-infected/OVA-exposed mice. Helminthic colonization appears to protect against asthma and atopic disorders; the regulatory cytokine, IL-10, may be a critical player.
Helminthic infections have been shown to inhibit allergy skin-prick tests and to modify the course of asthma. We evaluated Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus–specific immune responses in patients with asthma by measuring levels of T helper 2 (Th2) cytokines in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) cultures. PBMCs from Schistosoma mansoni–infected patients with asthma living in an area of polyhelminthic endemicity produced lower levels of interleukin (IL)–5 and IL-4 in response to D. pteronyssinus antigen (Ag) 1 than did PBMCs from helminth-free patients with asthma. In contrast, D. pteronyssinus Ag 1–specific production of IL-10 was higher in helminth-infected patients than in helminth-free patients. The addition of recombinant human IL-10 to D. pteronyssinus Ag 1–stimulated cultures of PBMCs from helminth-free patients led to down-modulation of production of IL-5. After helminth-infected patients with asthma received antihelminthic treatment, there was down-modulation of D. pteronyssinus Ag 1–specific production of IL-10 in vitro. S. mansoni–infected patients with asthma produce lower levels of Th2 cytokines than do helminth-free patients with asthma, and this modulation is likely done by IL-10
(1) Turton, J.A. (1976) IgE, parasites, and allergy. The Lancet ii:686 (text not available online, too old)
(2) Ottgen, H. C., and R. S. Geha. 1999. IgE in asthma and atopy: cellular and molecular connections. J. Clin. Invest. 104:829.
(3) Strachan, D. P. 1989. Hay fever, hygiene and household size. (The Hygiene Hypothesis) Br. Med. J. 299: 1259.
(4) Corry, D. B. 2002. Emerging immune targets for the therapy of allergic asthma. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 1:55.
(5) Mao, X.-Q., D.-J. Sun, A. Miyoshi, Z. Feng, Z. T. Handzel, J. M. Hopkin, and T. Shirakawa. 2000. The link between helminthic infection and atopy (allergy, asthma, eczema). Parasitol. Today 16:186.
(6) Weiss, S. T. 2000. Parasites and asthma/allergy: what is the relationship? J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 105:205.
(7) Cookson, W. O. C. M., and M. F. Moffatt. 1997. Asthma: an epidemic-in-the-absence-of infection? Science 275:41.