Thursday, June 28, 2012

Worms for an Allergic Nose?

Allergic disease is on the rise in developed countries when compared to undeveloped countries and we have no idea why. There are many hypotheses....

Are we too clean?  

Do we use too many antibiotics?  
Is early use of tylenol affecting our allergies?  

Is it because we don't have parasitic worm infections? 
That's right parasitic worms, you read correctly. Worms are known to alter the immune system and in the past many have hypothesized that infections with worms leads to a decreased allergic response.  Could this be a potential treatment for your nasal symptoms this summer? Believe it or not, over 130 people agreed to be infected with parasitic worms and observe their nasal symptoms and medication uses.
There's been two well designed studies looking at the question of does worm therapy actually decrease symptoms and medications for hay fever or allergic rhinitis?  Dr. Croft from the UK recently published her studies in the Cochrane database in April.  130 people where treated with whipworms, hookworms or placebo.  They reported on their symptom reduction, quality of life, and medication usage.
The results were disappointing.  Treatment with both whipworms and hookworms showed no benefit.  Treatment did not significantly improve the percentage of days with minimal symptoms, decrease medication use, or improve quality-of-life scores.  Not surprisingly, patients treated with worms, reported increased stomach and gastrointestinal issues including increased gas, stomach pain, and nausea.

As much as I want to help my patients with their allergic disease, I must admit, I'm glad that don't have to make this recommendation!

Stay tuned for more interesting research in Allergy/Immunology.

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