A small pilot study achieved big results, reducing symptoms of Celiac's disease -- the autoimmune disorder that requires a gluten-free diet -- by infecting participants with hookworms.
"By the end of the trial, with worms onboard, the trial subjects were eating the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti, with no ill effects," says Paul Giacomin, an immunologist at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia. "That's a meal that would usually trigger a debilitating inflammatory response, leaving a celiac patient suffering symptoms like diarrhea, cramps and vomiting."
In the 52-week study, 12 participants received hookworms and although four were withdrawn from the study for reasons not pertaining to gluten, or even to hookworms, the remaining eight showed a highly increased tolerance to gluten -- and to hookworms.
When given the option of taking medication that would clear their system of the hookworms, they all chose to keep them, according to researchers.
Over the course of the year, researchers launched micro-challenges in which they asked participants to eat increasing portions of pasta and they were able to consume 60 to 75 straws of spaghetti on a daily basis at the end.
Although Celiac disease affects just a small per cent of the population worldwide, many more choose to eat gluten-free in the effort to loose weight and to reap the health benefits.
The researchers believe the result of their study is due to a protein in the hookworms and aim to create a powder version of it, although the biggest question likely to arise is whether or not "gluten-free" will retain its hold after a solution arrives for Celiac patients.
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