Jan 21, 2010

Hello Parasites, Goodbye Allergies

Ahh, the beloved parasitic gut worm, bane to dogs and humans. We humans have done the world the service of eradicating much of the globe of this parasite, at least among human populations. But there is one population that still suffers from this worm: Vietnam, where 2 in 3 school children are thus afflicted.

(Images via:Softpedia, Science Blogs, Best Colon Cleanse) via WebEcoist





















But here's the interesting part: children who are treated for gut worm infections have a resulting increased likelihood of developing a variety of allergies and asthma. But in Vietnam, these same allergies are extremely rare. One working theory: being afflicted with the parasitic gut worm gives you resistance to allergies.

Well, I'm signing off. Gotta go pack up the kids and make our way to Vietnam. We'll pick up some tasty phở and Bánh cuốn, maybe some balut, and hopefully a healthy infestation of gut worms. Hello parasites, goodbye allergies.

9 comments:

niner said...

I'll take the pho but you can have the gut worms!

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

it reminds me of the 1979 film ALIEN... when one of the characters had a nasty alien parasite on his face... eeugghh!!

san said...

No hunger for spagetti any more...

Dudel said...

That's a bit win-loose on being a host vs being allergic to whatever.

I actually thought ringworm when I first saw this... but ringworm isn't a parasite so much a fungus.

Jenny Reiswig said...

Makes sense - if your immune system is busy trying to keep worms from killing you, it's not going to have time for stupid pollen.

Anonymous said...

It's true. If T helper cells are busy responding to the parasitic infection they can't mount an allergic response at the same time.
The only problem is the worms sap a lot of iron from the host body, especially if that host is a child.

Joe said...

I believe it's called the Hygiene Hypothesis. I recall reading in Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex that tests were conducted (in New Jersey?) on 7 chronic gastroentritis sufferers using sterilised nematodes. 6 of the 7 were cured of their stomach ailments.

BugLady said...

Having a parasite infection brings its own set of problems, though. I'd stick to the allergies :)

Anonymous said...

I have a sister who is a celiac (she cannot have gluten, it makes her body basically attack her intestines), which is an autoimmune disease... there is a new treatment for it that uses a particular type of intestinal worm. There have been very positive results: worms go in, gluten sensitivity goes away. In fact, many of those involved in the study chose to keep the worms at the end of the study. WEIRD stuff.