Having worms can be good for the gut | Science News

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Having worms can be good for the gut

Parasites trigger immune reaction that can calm inflammation

2:13pm, April 14, 2016

THE WORM TURNS  Intestinal parasites may have an upside. Researchers have discovered that people with whipworms (Trichuris trichiura, left) and mice with Heligmosomoides polygyrus (right) have fewer inflammation-provoking bacteria than they do without the worms. 

Parasitic worms may hold the secret to soothing inflamed bowels.

In studies of mice and people, parasitic worms shifted the balance of bacteria in the intestines and calmed inflammation, researchers report online April 14 in Science. Learning how worms manipulate microbes and the immune system may help scientists devise ways to do the same without infecting people with parasites.

Previous research has indicated that worm infections can influence people’s fertility (SN Online: 11/19/15), as well as their susceptibility to other parasite infections (SN: 10/5/13, p. 17) and to allergies (SN: 1/29/11, p. 26).

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