Can Parasites Cure? Evaluation of Helminthic Therapy as a Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases
Abstract – The objective of this literature review was to evaluate the use of helminthic therapy as a treatment for autoimmune diseases, analysing sources from the PubMed database and additional online articles (n=376). Previous investigations have determined that autoimmune diseases can generally not be cured, and only the conditions can be suppressed. However, qualitative analysis of reports using data from helminth-derived immunomodulators tested in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mouse model of progressive multiple sclerosis and a recent breakthrough involving Dicrocoelium dendriticum eggs, shows amelioration of disease upon infection with certain helminths. Moreover, helminths have the ability to be immunomodulators due to their ability to subvert a T-cell (Treg and Th2) mediated inflammatory response - a response which is closely associated which many chronic inflammatory-associated diseases (CIADs). As a result, subsequent evidence collected from cross-sectional studies has accentuated that helminths have further potential to use their secretory products and peptides for drug development - targeting intracellular protein-protein interaction. The main conclusions reached were that human helminthic therapy is effective in treating and/or preventing autoimmune diseases, plausibly improving an individual’s health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Despite this, additional studies and inclusive effort is needed to translate pre-clinical results into clinical trials, a current limitation in this field of research. Nonetheless, helminths have the potential to be the next generation of novel therapeutics as they provide endless avenues of research.