Shirley S. Wang
Some bugs are good for our health, and a pig parasite called the whipworm appears to be one of them.
Whipworm eggs have been found in human studies to reduce symptoms in a host of diseases that affect the immune system. Researchers at several universities have shown promising results in small numbers of patients with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Biotechnology companies are conducting large clinical trials of the treatment. Other studies targeting rheumatoid arthritis, autism and some allergies are expected to begin this year.
Scientists have been trying to figure out why diseases that affect the immune system have increased dramatically over the past several decades in much of the developed world. For example, the incidence of asthma in U.S. children under 17 was up 28% in 2009 from 1999, according to government data.