A man, 28 years old, started having bloody bowel movements. He was having 10-15 bloody bowel movements a day.
His gastroenterologist has given him high doses of steroids, but because of severe side effects, he could take only for limited periods of time. Soon, he became so sick that he had to quit his job.
He tried to go on the internet for other means of treatment and found an article in a medical journal by Dr. Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology at Tufts University Medical School, which showed some ulcerative colitis patients found relief after ingesting the trichuris suis worm, a parasite that lives in the intestines of pigs.
After reading the article, he contacted Weinstock to ask him to treat him with worms, but Weinstock said no, because it wasn’t approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration and could only be done experimentally. Many doctors have refused him.
Furthermore, his gastroenterologist had told the man that his idea was crazy. Infesting himself with parasitic worms wouldn’t do anything to help his ulcerative colitis, and in fact could make him very sick. If he pursued with this course of treatment, the doctor would have to refuse to treat him.
He contacted researchers in various developing countries to ask if they could help him get his hands on some eggs. The researcher in Thailand was particularly helpful.When he arrived, the doctor in Thailand extracted roundworm eggs from the stool of an 11-year-old infected girl. She gave the trichuris trichiura eggs to the patient, but he now faced another hurdle. The eggs needed to be cleaned in case the girl had hepatitis or some other infectious disease, and the eggs needed to mature for them to be helpful. It was up to him to clean the eggs and grow them in a process called “embryonation.”
The man managed to grow the eggs. He ingested the first dose of 500 eggs and then another of 1,000. The worms could live in his intestinal track for many years. Three months later, he had fewer bloody bowel movements, and soon, none at all. His bowel movements were normal. When his ulcerative colitis would flare up again, he’d extract eggs from his own stool, clean, embryonate and ingest them. Again, his symptoms would go away.
The worms seemed to be having this beneficial effect. After ingestion, he had an abundance of cells that produce a protein called interleukin-22, which is important in healing the mucosal lining of the intestines. The worms were able to restore mucus production in his gut.