Parasitic worms could present hope for millions suffering multiple sclerosis. MS is the most common neurological condition found in young adults, which can occur at any age. However the symptoms of the condition are mostly seen between the age of twenty and forty.
MS sufferers frequently experience muscle weakness, blurred vision and problems with mobility because the disease attacks the central nervous system. At present there is no cure for the neurological condition. But now researchers from the Nottingham University believe that a low dose of the Necator americanus that commonly known as the hookworm may help relieve symptoms.
Researchers believe that presence of the parasite in the body can stop the immune system from becoming overactive which is the main cause of MS. It reduces both the severity of symptoms and the number of relapses. To verify the hypothesis Lead researcher Prof David Pritchard and colleagues conscripted more than seventy patients from Nottingham and Derby areas.
All patients involved in study suffering from relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). It is the most frequent type in which vision problems, dizziness and fatigue appear and disappear and is secondary progressive MS. Half of the study subjects will receive a low dose of the hookworms that is twenty-five of the microscopic larvae on a plaster applied to the arm while the others will receive a placebo.
Researchers believe, when the larvae come into contact with the skin they work their way through into the blood stream until they reach the lungs. Where they are coughed up and swallowed to reach the gut, their final destination. In gut they survive by cling on to the gut lining and feeding on blood of the host.
The larvae can grow up to one centimeter in length as they warren into blood vessels. The worms do not proliferate in the host but replicate by generating fertile eggs, which are expelled in human faeces. These hatch into infective larvae outside the body, which go on to infect other patients.
Researchers hope that finding of study will show that the hookworms will successfully damp down the immune system of the patients, keep their symptoms in check and prevent relapses. The health benefits of parasitic worms were first noted during the late eighties.
Prof Pritchard observed that patients infected with the hookworm were rarely subject to a range of autoimmune-related illnesses, including hay fever and asthma. He stated that the latest study seems counter-intuitive. They are introducing a parasite which is by definition harmful, to act as a stimulus to moderate disease
Hookworms have an inborn ability to moderate the immune system to allow them to survive in the body for years. This moderation may have a bystander effect on the progression of MS, concluded Prof Pritchard.