The article “A Darwinian View of the Hygiene or ‘Old Friends’ Hypothesis” by Graham A.W Rook details the specific outcomes of research that supports the hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis states that some autoimmune diseases are becoming more prevalent in developed areas due to the lack of exposure to pathogens at a young age. This is due as the lack of pathogen exposure suppresses the natural progression of the immune system and causes a lower degree of immune tolerance. The article “For the Good of the Gut: Can Parasitic Worms Treat Autoimmune Diseases?” by Ferris Jabr elaborates on a specific field of research that is associated with the hygiene hypothesis. Jabr focuses on the ingestion of parasitic worms to decrease the symptoms associated with gastrointestinal diseases.
In the article by Jabr, it was mentioned that the use of whipworms completely treated the symptoms of a man’s colitis. The article then continues with additional data that supports the use of helminthic therapy without listing any of its’ drawbacks. When reading the article, I initially believed that the whipworm parasite was just a benign worm that probably just hung around in the intestines for a little bit before being passed out without causing any symptoms. However, a quick online search shows that while light infestations of less that 100 worms are usually symptomless (the examples of helminthic therapies in the article used up from 1000-3000 worms), anything more than that number may cause additional GI symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and even bacterial infections from the worms penetrating the intestinal lining. These symptoms are for acute expose to the worms only, but seeing as the worm eggs in helminthic therapy need to be reintroduced continually in order to remain symptom free (from the autoimmune disease), it is possible that more serious chronic symptoms can occur. This is why I don’t think helminthic therapy will be a viable option in the future mainly because the costs outweigh the benefits.
However, in the article by Rook he states that the GI microbiota also exert a degree of immunoregulatory control. Because the bacteria in the gut flora is so numerous and has a great deal of diversity/ variation from person to person, it presents a better target in developing therapies against autoimmune diseases. Specifically in determining which species of bacteria are helpful in reducing the symptoms of certain diseases and which species exacerbate the symptoms.