Sheila Moorcroft, Research Director
13 April 2011
What is changing?
Auto immune diseases may also be linked to parasites: or rather the lack of them. New research indicates that treating patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Diseases such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative colitis, with a dose of whipworm parasites in a mineral solution may remove the need for surgery and solve the problem by ‘relining’ the gut with protective mucous.
A 2007 study in Argentina indicated a potentially similar benefit for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers. Those patients with eosinophilia caused by intestinal parasites suffered fewer relapses than those without. The modern world’s tendency towards excessive hygiene may play a role in altering our immune responses, and thus increasing risks of developing diseases such as MS.
As many as 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia at any one time, bringing untold suffering to the individual and often family and friends.
This growing body of research indicates that there may be new treatments which reduce suffering even if not bringing a cure and are far less invasive and disruptive than alternatives such as operating or even some of the drug regimes. They almost certainly cost less.
Parasitic infection connections to schizophrenia and other mental illness were suggested many decades ago, but forgotten with the development of psychology. Revisiting old theories can often, when combined with new tools, techniques and understanding, reveal new truths. As our understanding of the wider ecology of parasites and genetics and even blood type – e.g. positive or negative- grows, so we may be able to develop more personalised solutions to these conditions.
After the fears raised by the H1N1 pandemic, and the associated issues of high proximity to animals in some countries, we may see tougher regulations about pet care and control and animal husbandry in future, if stronger links between parasites and significant mental health issues are proven.
Likewise, dirt may be good for us. Cleanliness used to be regarded as next to godliness in Europe: it would appear not to be next to wellness. Our obsession with cleaning, overcoming smells, dirt and germs of every kind may come under attack. More of the right kind of parasites may need to be encouraged.