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Parasitic Worms Alter Bacterial Balance In The Guts; Helps Prevent Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Apr 15, 2016 05:54 AM EDT
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Living in a modern space that's too clean might not be as healthy as its sounds. According to a new study, people who are not exposed to worms, especially in developed countries, tends to develop oversensitive, gut-based immune system vulnerable to inflammatory diseases.

According to the report from EurekAlert, researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center have observed that there more people experiencing inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease, in develop countries where only few people has parasitic worm compared to some parts of the world where parasitic worms are prevalent.

To test out their observation, researchers fed between 10 and 15 parasitic whipworm eggs to mice that lack NOD2, a protein coding gene associated with Crohn's disease. The researchers then measured the amount of Bacteroides and Clostridia in the intestines and stool of the mice after the worms matured.

Bacteroides is a group of bacterial species that is being linked to a higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. Clostridia, on the other hand, are a bacterial species know to counter inflammation.

Researchers discovered that mice infected with parasitic worms have their Bacteroids decreased considerably while their Clostridia have significantly increased.

To determine if the same effect also occurs in humans, researchers compared the bacterial balance of 75 members of Orang Asli indigenous people in rural Malaysia and 20 people living in Kuala Lumpur. They found out that people living in the rural area has lesser Bacteroides than those who live in the city, according to their press release in Science.

"Our findings are among the first to link parasites and bacteria to the origin of IBD, supporting the hygiene hypothesis," says study co-senior investigator and parasitologist P'ng Loke, PhD, an associate professor at NYU Langone said in a statement.

"Our study could change how scientists and physicians think about treating IBD," added Ken Cadwell, Ph.D., an assistant professor at NYU Langone and its Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine and co-author of the study.

Their experiment and findings are published in the April 14 issue of the journal Science.

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