April 5th, 2010


Helminthic Therapy

The theme on this week's This American Life was "The Enemy Within", and one bit (which I sat in the car for a few minutes to listen to) was about a guy with terrible, terrible allergies, who found out about the hygiene hypothesis, did some research, and decided that anything was better than his current situation, so he went off to Cameroon and walked barefoot near latrines and caught hookworm and, lo and behold, his allergies vanished. Completely.

It turns out there's a lot of evidence that our immune systems have evolved to cope with parasitic worms of one kind or another, so there's a regulatory benefit to having them in your system. Researchers are studying how various autoimmune disorders (allergies, asthma, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, etc.) can be significantly lessened, if not eliminated, by helminthic therapy, as it's called.

Do not, by the way, google for images of hookworms, because they are fucking terrifying.

So the question is:

Deliberately infesting yourself with a parasitic organism for the health benefits. How squicky is that?

*inarticulate shriek of horror, plus flailing*
The very idea makes me want a shower. *shudder*
That is really, really creepy. Ew. Ew ew ew!
It's... kinda gross.
I am conflicted.
That's... kinda cool, actually.
Sign me up!