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Can Hookworms Cure Coeliac Disease?

Can Hookworms Cure Coeliac Disease?

By Paul Giacomin

Coeliac disease patients infected with hookworms can tolerate gluten-containing foods, revealing the potential for these parasites and their secretions to treat a range of inflammatory diseases.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

People have co-existed with parasites throughout history. To enable their survival, the parasites evolved sophisticated strategies to avoid attack by their human host’s immune system.

At the same time, the human immune system needed to develop strategies to deal with large and complex creatures such as parasitic worms, since any vigorous inflammatory response directed against the worm may have detrimental effects on its own tissues. This co-evolution has forced us to “tolerate” worms to a point where exposure to these pathogens, as well as other infectious and commensal microorganisms, is critical for shaping the normal development and function of our immune system.

In the past century, however, urbanisation, improved sanitation and health care measures in the developed world have reduced our exposure to many infectious diseases, including parasitic worms. During this period, incidences of allergic and auto­immune inflammatory disorders have risen dramatically. These disorders occur when the immune system, which evolved to combat infections with viruses, bacteria or parasites, inappropriately responds to harmless stimuli such as environmental factors, food and the body’s own tissues.

One theory to explain the rise in inflammatory disorders was that by losing contact with “immune-training” microorganisms during childhood, our immune systems develop...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.