New Effective Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The digestive system is the set of organs that digest food and absorb the important nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and grow. Two of the major parts of the digestive system are the small and large intestines. Just like other organs in your body, the intestines can develop problems or diseases.IBD is a general term that refers to illnesses that cause chronic inflammation in the intestines.
IBD (which is not the same thing as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS), can cause more serious problems than just diarrhea and pain.IBD disorders affect more than 1 million people in the United States. The cause of these complex ailments is unknown. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fistulas, which are tiny channels or cracks that can result from inflammation.Scientists are looking at several possible causes of IBD, including genetics, immune response, lifestyle and diet. IBD occurs more often in northern climates and in affluent communities, and, until recently, has rarely been seen in developing countries, especially those in southern climates.
The two major types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Crohn's disease occurs when the lining and wall of the intestines becomes inflamed and ulcers develop.
- In ulcerative colitis, the large intestine becomes inflamed and ulcers may develop.
Depending on the level of severity, IBD may require immunosuppression to control the symptoms. such as azathioprine, methotrexate, or 6-mercaptopurine. More commonly, treatment of IBD requires a form of mesalazine. Often, steroids are used to control disease flares and were once acceptable as a maintenance drug. In use for several years in Crohns disease patients and recently in patients with Ulcerative Colitis, biologicals has been used such as the intravenously administered Remicade. Severe cases may require surgery, such as bowel resection, strictureplasty or a temporary or permanent colostomy or ileostomy. Alternative medicine treatments for bowel disease exist in various forms, however such methods concentrate on controlling underlying pathology in order to avoid prolonged steroidal exposure or surgical excisement.
A study of patients with Crohn's disease at the American College of Gastroenterology, which showed that patients who were taking more than five IBD medications were more likely to have symptoms of disease while experiencing a lower quality of life. Ten percent of the patients in this group got better simply by eliminating medications.
Surgery, especially minimally invasive surgery, may also make it possible to reduce or eliminate medications.
Researchers say that people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may soon benefit from a new effective treatment using the eggs of parasitic worms.
Parasitic worms or helminths are a division of parasites which, unlike external parasites such as lice or fleas, live inside their host. They are worm-like organisms that live and feed off of a living host receiving nourishment and protection while disrupting its host's nutrient absorption, causing weakness and disease. Those which live inside the digestive tract are called intestinal parasites.
Parasitic worms are sequential hermaphrodites and reproduce depending on the species of worm, either with the presence of a male and female worm, joining sperm and eggs, producing fertile eggs, such as hookworms, or by breaking off segments that contain both male and female sex organs which are able to produce fertile eggs without the presence of a male or female. (e.g. tapeworms)
Recent trials of a drink containing thousands of pig whipworm eggs appeared to significantly reduce symptoms of IBD, such as abdominal pain, bleeding and diarrhoea, in study participants.
Indeed, among 100 volunteers with Crohn's disease and 100 with ulcerative colitis, both of which are diseases classified under IBD, the remission rate was 70% and 50%, respectively, after the treatment.
Dr Joel Weinstock, from the University of Iowa, who devised the treatment, told New Scientist magazine: "A lot of researchers couldn't believe this treatment was effective, but people are always sceptical when confronted with new ideas."
He thought of treating IBD with worms after noticing that a significant increase in the disease in developed countries coincided with a sharp fall in the number of parasitic infections, such as human whipworm and roundworm. Incidence of IBD is still rare in countries where parasitic infections remain common.
Dr Weinstock's theory was that the human immune system has evolved to tolerate the presence of parasites, and without them it can become overactive.
Pig whipworm, instead of human whipworm, was chosen for the treatment as it does not survive very long in people.
A German company called BioCure, whose sister company BioMonde produces leeches and maggots for treating wounds, is producing a version of the concoction called TSO, after the Latin name for the worm Trichuris suis ova. Chief Executive Detlev Goj said that TSO could soon be available in Europe, pending approval by the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products.
Dr Weinstock will announce the results of the latest clinical trials in May at a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.