Daily Archives: January 24, 2011

Patient treated his bowel disease with parasitic worm eggs

In the “I-can’t-believe-it’s-true” category, the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “For several decades, researchers have argued that the growing incidence of autoimmune disease in the developed world is the result of improved sanitation, which limits our exposure to infectious diseases during childhood.”

And, “in the 1990s, Dr. Joel Weinstock, then at the University of Iowa and now at Tufts University, observed that the eradication of intestinal worms in the developed world was followed soon after by a rise in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which now affects as many as one million Americans.”

But, a 34-year-old Northern California man with ulcerative colitis may have found a way to treat his condition: “parasitic worms.”

He “hopped a plane to Thailand to see a parasitologist – and then gulped down 1,500 parasitic worm eggs,” according to the MSNBC “Body Odd” blog.

“Turns out, the squirmy little worms did the trick to help soothe the man’s inflammatory bowel disease symptoms,” sparring him from having his colon surgically removed.

The case was detailed in Science Translational Medicine by New York University researchers who “analyzed slides and samples of the man’s blood and colon tissue from 2003, before he swallowed the eggs, to 2009, a few years after ingestion,” HealthDay reported.

“During this period, he was virtually symptom-free for almost three years,” but “when his colitis flared in 2008, he swallowed another 2,000 eggs and got better again.”

Samples “taken during active colitis showed a large number of CD4+ T-cells.” However, “tissue taken after worm therapy, when his colitis was in remission, contained lots of T-cells that make interleukin-22 (IL-22), a protein that promotes wound healing.”

The Trichuris trichiura worms “seemed to stimulate the production of mucus in the gut,” WebMD reported.

Lead investigator P’ng Loke, PhD, “and colleagues believe that the mucus is produced in an effort to expel the worms from the gut,” but “instead of doing this it heals the lesions caused by the disease.”

Dr. Loke noted, however, that the “patient was lucky … because the risks of deliberately colonizing the intestine with parasitic worms are not well understood.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Health & Science Today” blog also covered the story.

MRI scans of the brain may help scientists better understand autism

Bloomberg News reports that a MRI-based “method may help speed up detection and add to knowledge of” autism’s “biological base,” according to a paper in Autism Research.

“‘We, for the first time, are able to begin to really see what is going on in the brain in children who have autism,’ said Janet Lainhart, an associate professor at the University of Utah, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. ‘That is usually the beginning of major advances in recognition, treatment, and prevention.'”

Indeed, “previous studies using different types of scans have been able to identify people with autism” but, said co-author Nicholas Lange of Harvard, “no one has looked at it [the brain] the way we have and no one has gotten these type of results,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.

The images of the brains helped researchers correctly identify those with autism with 94 percent accuracy.”

Marguerite Colston, vice president of constituent relations for the Bethesda, Maryland-based Autism Society, an advocacy group that raises awareness about the disorder, said the organization hopes studies like this will ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis of autism for all children.

Currently, the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 4 years old. The group is striving to cut the age of diagnosis in half, she said.

Researchers plan to further study and develop the test. Additional studies are also needed to see if the test will work in those who are younger and in those whose autism symptoms are more severe, the researchers said.

Maybe this type of research will not only help with the diagnosis and early treatment of autism (and related disorders), but also help us find the real cause or causes (which clearly are not vaccines).

New Guidelines for Diagnosing and Treating Food Allergies

This rather long post will be of primary interest to those treating and suffering with food allergies. Primarily, the new guidelines aim to standardize diagnosis and treatment of food allergy

On the front of its Personal Journal section, the Wall Street Journal reports in “Health Journal” that at present, pulmonologists, emergency physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, pediatricians, and allergists diagnose and manage food allergies in a wide variety of ways.

What’s more, some tests on the market have not been scientifically validated, while the results of others are often misinterpreted. Such realities make it difficult to gauge the number of Americans suffering from food allergies.

In fact, there are “wildly divergent estimates of food allergies that range from 1% to 10% of the US population,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Most likely, about 3% to 4% of Americans have some type of food allergy, although the prevalence appears to be increasing for unknown reasons, said Dr. Hugh A. Sampson, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.”

In other words, “as many as 50% to 90% of people with presumed food allergies do not in fact have them, medical research suggests.”

Now, however, newly released guidelines may eventually get “everyone on the same page when it comes to diagnosing and treating food allergies,” the Washington Post “The Checkup” blog reported.

“An expert panel working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) compiled the comprehensive guide published … in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.”

Again, the “goal was to provide healthcare professionals, whether they be allergy specialists, ED personnel, or general practitioners, up-to-date, science-based information about managing food allergies.”

Altogether, “43 recommendations” were released, HealthDay reported.

“One thing the guidelines try to do is delineate which tests can distinguish between a food sensitivity and a full-blown food allergy, Sampson noted.”

Yet, the “two most common tests done to diagnose a food allergy – the skin prick and measuring the level of antigens in a person’s blood – only spot sensitivity to a particular food, not whether there will be a reaction to eating the food. To determine whether the results of these two tests indicate a true allergy, other tests and a food challenge are often needed.”

For those who are eventually diagnosed and react to a specific foodstuff, the “recommended therapy for anaphylaxis is described in the guidelines,” Medscape reported.

“Dr. Sampson stressed that ‘epinephrine is the first choice for the treatment of anaphylaxis and many of the other drugs, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and such, are secondary medications.'”

Investigators also pointed out that “food elimination diets – taking away one or a few specific foods to see if the reaction disappears – may help,” WebMD reported.

“Oral food challenges – exposing the person to the suspected food under medical supervision – are thought to be helpful.”

As for prevention, “some pregnant women may hope restricting their diets during pregnancy or during breastfeeding may help their children avoid allergies,” but the “experts disagree and don’t recommend this.”

They fail to endorse “soy formula as a strategy for preventing the development of allergies,” as well.

Notably, MedPage Today reported, the recommendations “are meant to be easily understood and implemented by clinicians in varied specialties, according to Matthew Fenton, PhD, of the NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation.”

He added, “We were very specifically looking to generate a document that was not written by allergists for allergists.”

Dr. Fenton also explained that the “agency is now working on a summary for consumers,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“It’s important for patients and their families to understand that the symptoms of food allergy can mimic several other very legitimate diseases such as food intolerance and gastrointestinal problems. It is important for them to work with their doctors so they can identify the true root cause of the health affect caused by food.”

The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” also covered the story.