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Hookworms to treat MS

Parasitic worms could offer a new treatment for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) say researchers from the University of Nottingham.

Scientists are recruiting patients who suffer from MS for a clinical trial which will see them infected with a low, harmless dose of the Necator americanus or hookworm. They hope to prove that the presence of the parasite in the body switches off the mechanism by which the immune system becomes overactive – the main cause of MS – and can reduce both the severity of symptoms and number of relapses suffered by patients.

“This study appears counter-intuitive – we are introducing a parasite which is by definition harmful, to act as a stimulus to moderate disease,” said Professor David Pritchard, Professor of Parasite Immunology. “As a safeguard the hookworms are being used in carefully controlled and monitored conditions, and if successful could herald a much needed therapy for MS patients.”

The team are recruiting patients with relapse remitting MS (RRMS) – the most common type of the disease in which patients suffer vision problems, dizziness and fatigue – and secondary progressive MS with superimposed relapses.

Half the patients will be given a low a low dose of the hookworms – 25 of the microscopic larvae – on a plaster applied to the arm, while the other half with receive a placebo plaster. Once the larvae come into contact with the skin, they will work their way into the blood stream and to the lungs where they are coughed up and swallowed. Once in the gut, they will latch onto the gut lining and feeding on the host’s blood.

At the beginning of the trial – which has received £400,000 from the MS Society – patients will undergo an MRI scan to record the scarring on the brain which is present in MS patients. Over the course of nine months, they will be scanned on a regular basis for new or worsening legions, which can be a sign of relapse. The patients will also be given regular blood tests to check they are not anaemic – a signal that the dose of hookworms could be too high for that individual.


  1. Good news for all of those suffering with (RRMS) and and secondary progressive. Unfourtunately I suffer from Primary Progressive any hopeful treatments out there?

  2. Hi there. My name is Joel. I reside in Portland, Oregon. I was diagnosed 1/2/08.
    I had been feeling the the symptoms since mid ’04, but didn’t have medical insurance until late ’07
    I’ve had a 6 week stint with avonex. It was worse than the MS. I’ve been on copaxone for 4 years and have had no adverse reactions to it.
    In march of this year, I flew to Ohio & got CCSVI treatment. The few positive results were almost immediate (feeling in my hands & feet) but even after 4 months of physical therapy, I’ve had no further advances.

  3. Jennifer Richmond

    Is there hope for my dad? I just listened to the parasite broadcast on KPCC out of Pasadena. I simply welled up with tears at the possibility that there could be some relief for my father. He has progressive degenerative MS. I’d do anything to help him walk again or even be able to sit up and use his hands without such struggle. I know you’re busy, but if you’d be willing to reply via email or phone and point me in the right direction, I’d be so grateful.


    Jennifer Richmond

  4. Jasper Lawrence

    This therapy is already available in the UK from an unlicensed company, that is cooperating with the MHRA to obtain a license, already.

    Full disclosure, I own part of the company. But given the research by Correale, Farez, that already exists, and the evidence, via the Centers for Disease Control in the USA, of the safety of infection with small numbers of hookworm, I am surprised we do not get more interest for RR MS.

    Jasper Lawrence

    • I have rrms but they would not accept me as i have been on Tysabri (stopped in march) I only found out because I looked surely the MSS could publicise it on their website / face book group

      good luck

    • Hi Jasper :
      I have a relative suffering from MS can you tell me where do I contact in England for possible therapy ,please.

    • I listened to you on an old podcast of Radiolab today. At first I thought you were out of your mind, but then you brought me to tears. My mother has been suffering from MS, and I’m afraid these doctors and their trial medications are going to kill her. Your therapy makes a lot more sense to me, once explained. I don’t know that I could convince her to try this, but I feel complelled to try. Have you had any more success with MS patients? I’m very interested.

      I can’t be in line for my mother, but I’m holding her place and maybe I can push her to your door.


      Erik Lowry

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