Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
The idea may make your skin crawl, but the science is there: parasites may have useful applications in controlling autoimmune disease.
Parasites have received recognition as potential disease fighters, which excites the immunologists studying these worms, better known as helminths by research biologists.
These small parasites are found living in human intestines, particularly in developing countries that coincidentally have very low rates of autoimmune disease like type 1 diabetes.
The parasites have disease protective mechanisms researchers call type 2 immunity. In the United States, most of us do not harbor this parasite. In fact, we are apparently way too clean. Americans have become obsessed with anti-bacterial everything, which scientists say may have an impact on our rising rates of auto-immune disease in the U.S.
Lead researcher William Gause says: "What we would like to do now is harness components of the type 2 immune response to target the control of harmful inflammation that can lead to autoimmune diseases like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease."
Are parasites for you? If you find the idea gross, this may just change your mind: A study in 2012 by Gause and others introduced these parasites for two weeks to mice. Their findings indicated lasting protection against type 1 diabetes by immune system stimulation.