Update: I originally created this page to provide information and resources on helminthic therapy. That text remains below, but there is now an excellent Helmithic Therapy Wiki that has all of the information below and more.
Helminthic therapy involves the use of of parasitic worms to treat various autoimmune conditions, including allergies, asthma, Crohn’s disease, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and even autism. The treatment is based on the general theory that humans have co-existed throughout our evolutionary history with these helminths, and our immune systems rely on them for development. Because they have largely been removed from modern, industrialized societies, the incidence of autoimmune disease has skyrocketed. It is an established fact that the incidence of autoimmune diseases is much higher in industrialized countries than in the third world, though there are many competing theories to explain The theory that the rise is at least partially caused by a lack of parasites is usually known as the “Old Friends” hypothesis and/or the “Biome Depletion theory.” These theories are expanded upon in the excellent helminthic therapy Wikipedia article, and also in the book “A Epidemic of Absence.”
There have been a number of studies of helminthic therapy with good and bad results. The studies have largely been of a product called TSO (Trichuris Suis Ova) produced by a company called Ovamed. You can see the research on their website, which include successes (and some misses) with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. TSO are worms that are native to pigs, so they can only survive a few weeks in humans. As a result, you must keep dosing, which can get expensive at around $300/dose.
The other, less studied option are the application of human hookworms and whipworms. Because they are native to humans, they typically survive for many years, meaning that most people do not need regular doses after reaching the optimal number. This treatment was introduced by a man from California named Jasper Lawrence who went to Africa to infect himself. There is a Guardian article that does a good job of covering it. He ended up founding a company called Autoimmune Therapies which provides the worms, but the FDA forced him out of the country and back to the UK, where he now operates.
One promising study last year found that celiac patients treated with hookworms could tolerate the gluten-equivalent of a bowl of spaghetti by the end of the study (article). There are also quite a few anecdotes on the helminthic therapy Yahoo and Facebook groups. If you are interested in reviewing the many medical studies around helminthic therapy, you can start with the freely accessible article “Human helminth therapy to treat inflammatory disorders- where do we stand?” published in BMC Immunology in 2015.
Side effects are typically minor; mainly temporary rash and upset stomach while the worms make themselves at home. If there are problems, a single anti-helminth pill will clear them out of your system. Compared to typical treatments for autoimmune diseases (low-dose chemotherapy and monoclonal antibodies manufactured from mouse spleens), helminthic therapy has far fewer risks. If your life is seriously impacted by autoimmune issues (allergies, asthma, Crohn’s, lupus, arthritis, etc.), they are worth considering.
I personally started using hookworms as a treatment method in early 2015. You can follow my progress in my blog. If you are interested in learning more about the therapy, I would strongly encourage you to visit the helminthic therapy Yahoo and Facebook groups to learn more and talk with other users. The moderator, John Scott, has compiled an excellent collection of information about the therapy, including the valuable “Introduction to Helminthic Therapy” document. There are several providers available, though your options are more limited in the USA, as the FDA currently bans the treatment. If you live close to the Mexican or Canadian border, you may want to consider having the worms shipped there.