Link Between Worm Infections And Treatment Of MS, Other Autoimmune Diseases Found

shutterstock_167099975A study conducted by researchers from Monash University may be able to explain how a worm infection can effectively treat a number of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus. The researchers have identified a molecule in parasitic worms that may help explain this unusual effect. The findings are published in the FASEB journal.

The researchers successfully identified peptides found in parasitic worms that can suppress the body’s immune response. An autoimmune disease happens when the body’s own immune system reacts abnormally by attacking the body’s own cells, tissues or even organs. This can result in inflammation and considerable damage.

The link between worm infections and autoimmune disease treatments is practiced in what is known as helminthic therapy. It this type of therapy and autoimmune disease treatment, people deliberately infect themselves with parasitic worms. It is believed that the parasites have a calming effect on the host’s immune system as a way to ensure their survival.

The research provides an alternative to such a therapy by identifying the active components that is responsible for the immunomodulatory effects of the said parasites. The researchers created a cDNA library from the anterior secretory glands from the Ancyclostoma caninium, a type of parasitic hookworm. From this process, the researchers were able to identify a peptide called AcK1 that moderates the immune system by inhibiting a potassium channel.

The researchers also found out that AcK1 is closely similar to ShK, a peptide from the sea anemone, which is known to also suppress the immune system and is currently undergoing clinical trial for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

The researchers hope that their research may be able to identify similar compounds that may someday be developed into potential treatments for a host of autoimmune diseases. They hope to someday develop a pill that will be a better alternative than actually infecting the body with a parasitic worm just to dampen the immune system as treatment for autoimmune diseases.

Source: Medical News Today

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