Evidence for Immunotherapy in the form of Helminthic Therapy for the treatment of Autism
It is well documented that there is an association between autism and immune dysfunction (DelGuidice, 2003). Post-mortem brain tissues from 11 autistic patients have demonstrated the presence of an active and ongoing neuroinflammatory process in the cerebral cortex and white matter, and notably in the cerebellum. Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) assays from patients with autism following developmental regression were found to have a proinflammatory profile of cytokines compared to a control group (Pardo et al., 2005; Zimmerman, 2006).
The details of what is going on are very complex, may vary amongst autistics, and are incompletely understood. There is now believed to be a genetic component arising from transcription errors in the father's sperm, age of the father at time of conception, and to a much lessor degree the mother, seem to contribute to these transcription errors. However genetics is not destiny, and this is not the only factor.
So the use of helminths based on their anti-inflammatory effects is speculative and arose largely because of the observations and experiences of a father of an autistic boy, Stewart Johnson. After reading widely on the subject and trying various therapies, he settled upon using Trichuris suis ova (TSO) from Ovamed. TSO was the first commercially available helminthic therapy and can be obtained directly from this web site.
Johnson observed remarkably positive changes in his son, you can read about them here.
As a result of other parentsí experiences using TSO to treat their autistic children we were approached in the spring of 2007 by a mother of an autistic boy, read on to learn of their experiences.
Hookworm was an attractive alternative to TSO to many parents because of the expense. Over the long term hookworm are potentially a great deal less expensive than TSO. We all believed it would provide similar or better results because with hookworm as opposed to TSO the organism is meant to live in humans and is therefore better adapted to reducing inflammation in humans. And as opposed to TSO there is not a cycle of dosing, response, die off, decline in the level of benefit from TSO. Instead the response was very different.
Hookworm infection appears to result in an improvement in cognitive function in those we have provided it to. But it does not produce the kinds of benefits that TSO does, as described by Stewart Johnson. Hookworm and the whipworm we use which rely on a profoundly different mechanism of action do not result in an improvement in social function or have the major impact in some cases that TSO appears, they do sometimes have a different postive effect. However these appear lessor based on our observations that TSO. Unfortunately TSO is much more expensive over the long term.
But we now believe that a combination of helminths will produce better results, as is apparent in those using TSO and hookworm together. Trichuris trichiura (the human equivalent of Trichuris suis marketed by Ovamed), adds an additional dimension to the treatment for autistic children. However based on experience we have to recommend TSO as the primary organism, if you can afford it then do add both hookworm and TTO (our whipworm species) to the mix.
It is important to understand that while results with TSO, Hookworm, and with TTO are promising, they are not a magic bullet that is likely to restore any autistic child. Furthermore the experience of both hookworm and TSO is variable and cyclical, and is not straightforward. For instance use of IvIg therapy concurrent with hookworm is not recommended.
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