What is Helminthic Therapy?
Helminthic therapy adds organisms into the gut to help control immune responses at a fundamental level. You can think of them as a different kind of probiotic. They've been part of the human microbiome for millennia, but are no longer common in the Western world. In the parts of the globe where billions of humans still live with them, autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma are practically unknown. They help regulate immune function and properly used can live in harmony with humans, but scientists currently classify them as parasites.
Want a bit of a primer on how it all works? There's a TED talk for that.
What organisms are used?
Helminthic therapy currently uses four different organisms, by themselves or in combination.
Necator americanus (NA), human hookworm, is the most frequently used organism in Helminthic Therapy currently. The prospective host applies microscopic larvae in a water solution to the skin and the larvae migrate from there to their ultimate home, the lower intestine. NA's systemic effect has helped people with MS, CFS/ME, lupus and many other autoimmune problems. More than 700 million people host human hookworm worldwide.
Trichuris trichiura (TT), human whipworm, is the other therapeutic helminth that has humans as its natural host. Hosts introduce TT to their system by drinking specially prepared microscopic Trichuris triciura ova (TTO), eggs. TT live in the colon and have less systemic effect than NA. TT is most often used in hosts with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, sometimes along with NA. More than one billion people host human whipworm worldwide.
Trichuris suis ova (TSO), pig whipworm eggs, are a non-human helminth. Unlike human helminths NA and TT, TSO will not grow into mature organisms inside a human. Because of this, more frequent dosing, in the form of drinking eggs, is required. A standard course of treatment is 10 doses spaced two weeks apart. Remission that lasts for up to several years may be achieved with one course or additional doses may be required every few months to maintain it. Some parents have seen excellent results in autistic children whilst treating with TSO.
Hymenolepis diminuta cysticercoids (HDC), rat tapeworm, are another non-human helminth. Like TTO and TSO, HDC are consumed in drink form. Additional doses are required every two weeks.