Findings from new research conducted at the University of Calgary suggest an approach to treating pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is novel, if somewhat difficult to read about: tapeworms. The work builds on previous experimental findings that adult animals previously infected with intestinal parasites exhibited fewer and less intense symptoms of IBD vs animals without such infestations. Testing a hypothesis that the effect is due to an immune response called immunological memory, the University of Calgary team exposed young mice to the parasitic tapeworm H. diminuta and later introduced colitis-causing substances. The results are reported ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.
10 days after introduction of the parasites, the infected mice expelled them, indicating a normal physiological response of the immune system. These mice were then exposed to colitis-causing substances, and compared to a control group of animals who had not been worm-infested. The control group developed more severe cases of IBD than the actively infected group. The authors write “In conclusion, we provide some of the first proof-of-concept data in support of the potential of developing helminth therapy to prevent or treat inflammatory disease in children and [we show] that a history of infection opens the possibility of using immunological memory against helminths to treat inflammation.”
Read a news story about the discovery.
The journal abstract may be read here.
Posted on March 5, 2018