Why You Might Want Parasitic Worms


[ ♪ Intro ♪ ] If your doctor told you that you were infected
with worms, your first question would probably be, “How quickly can I get rid those worms
in me?” And I get that. I mean, look, you don’t want worms wriggling
around inside your intestines. It’s enough to gross anybody out. But what if I told you that you might want
to have parasitic worms inside you? Because some doctors have actually found a
connection between having worms and not having immune system problems like allergies or arthritis. The idea is that these worms have set up shop
in our bodies for so long, evolutionarily speaking, that our immune systems might have
gotten used to them — to the point that being worm-free can actually cause its own
issues. It’s part of the hygiene hypothesis, which
was proposed by epidemiologists back in the 1980s to explain why allergies and autoimmune
conditions like asthma are so much more common today than they used to be. According to the hypothesis, people’s immune
systems might be out of whack because we’re too clean. Filtered water didn’t exist for an awful
long time, let alone hand sanitizer stations. So for much of our evolutionary history, everyone
was constantly exposed to things like bacteria and parasites. It’s your immune system’s job to keep
these things from settling in and harming you when they get inside. So when it finds something foreign, it defends
your body by triggering inflammation — that hot, red, swollen achiness. Those symptoms happen because the area is
flooded with an army of white blood cells. The compounds they release either attack the
foreign material, or call in reinforcements. But the compounds that do the bulk of the
attack don’t just target invaders. They can harm your own cells, too, and your
body can get caught in the crossfire, which causes damage and pain. Allergies, for example are a special case
of inflammation, where the body is overreacting to something that’s usually harmless, like
pollen or dust. And autoimmune disorders come from parts of
your own body triggering inflammation. Like rheumatoid arthritis, where joints basically
become permanently inflamed, or multiple sclerosis, where the immune system attacks the protective
coating around nerves, and sometimes the nerves themselves. All these conditions are becoming more common
these days, especially in wealthy nations where you would think easy access to high-quality
medical care would prevent them. That’s where parasitic worms, collectively
known as helminths, come in. The group includes things like tapeworms,
nematodes, and flukes, which steal nutrients to survive. Most get cozy in another animal’s intestines
or blood. Some species cause pretty severe symptoms—like
the worms behind schistosomiasis, which can cause anemia, liver failure, bladder cancer,
or other awful conditions. But many others don’t. Like, if you had a tapeworm right now, you
might have no idea. Which is a super creepy thought, actually. For those more benign species, the fallout
that can come from launching your immune system nukes at them can be worse than the damage
from the worms themselves. Which is why some epidemiologists think that
our immune systems have evolved to function with certain parasites, to some extent. That might sound kind of backwards, but studies
have found that rates of asthma and allergies are higher in places with fewer parasite infections,
like those with more sanitation and access to healthcare. And even though treatment is obviously worth
it when the worms are causing health problems, other research has suggested that getting
rid of parasites can have unintended side effects. For instance, in a 2006 study, ridding 317
children from Gabon of their intestinal parasites made some of them have an allergic reaction
to mites. Similarly, a 2011 study looked at more than
2500 Ugandan women, some of whom were treated with deworming meds while they were pregnant. While the treatment helped prevent potentially
serious complications in both adults and babies, it increased the likelihood that the kids
would have eczema or wheezing—both symptoms of allergic responses. And a small study of 12 multiple sclerosis
patients found that those with worms had less nerve damage over time. But when 4 of them were treated, their multiple
sclerosis symptoms got worse. It seems strange that having a parasite infection
could keep you healthier in these specific ways. So to figure out why this pattern exists,
immunologists have looked at how our bodies respond to helminth infections. They’ve found that some parasitic worms
seem to make our immune systems kind of hold back by releasing anti-inflammatory signals
that make it so our bodies don’t go overboard trying to kill the parasites. At the same time, they’re also reducing
the inflammation that leads to autoimmune conditions, and the overreaction to allergens. Helminths could also spur the production of
regulatory T cells, which recognize parts of your body that might trigger inflammation
and turn down the response. These cells normally keep your immune system
from staying in attack mode after the invaders are already dead, or from freaking out in
response to harmless stuff like pollen. And this was seen in those 12 multiple sclerosis
patients—those with parasites had more regulatory T cells recognizing a protein that triggers
the attack of neural tissue. Which could be why they had less nerve damage. Doctors are trying to figure out what it is
about the worms that triggers these regulatory mechanisms. That way, they might be able to turn the compounds
involved into treatments for all kinds of autoimmune diseases. It would be all the benefits of worms, without
the worms! To be clear, we here at SciShow do not recommend
infecting yourself with worms to try and, like, cure your tree nut allergy. Unless your doctor prescribes them, which
is … kind of possible. Some doctors are putting the hygiene hypothesis
to the ultimate medical test: clinical trials. Most of these trials are still in the early
stages, and results are mixed. But some researchers remain hopeful. We already know that our health depends on
tons of other organisms that live on and in our bodies. So maybe parasitic worms are just part of
that. Just a lot bigger. But again, we are not recommending that you
stop washing your hands or, like, walk around barefoot around a lot of human feces. Don’t do that. If you want to learn more about your health
and medicine and healthcare policy you can dive even deeper by checking out our sister
channel Healthcare Triage hosted by Dr. Aaron Carroll over at youtube.com/healthcaretriage. [ ♪ Outro ♪ ]

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100 thoughts on “Why You Might Want Parasitic Worms

  1. funny how all these things we evolved with are now targets to be killed, doctors are going to mess the human genome up and we will all die off lol

  2. After experiencing parasitic worms mind control I can safely say you are infected by demonic worms and under a spell

  3. i have another idea: since we have access to modern medicine, those with allergies or asthma are not killed from those complications. due to this, there are much more of people with allergies/asthma/etc. in developed countries. if you had asthma as a caveman, you are much less likely to live long enough to have kids, right?

  4. people with irritable bowel syndrome have been ingesting hookworms to help with symptoms for years. And it has works. good gut bacteria increased the stomach lining became healthier. Its humbling to know our physiology is so defined by our evolution. humans try so hard to stand apart from nature, It may happen someday when we transform into cyborgs but now we should reevaluate our place within the web of life, accept that all life is one thing and we are part of the whole. We would be happier healthier and life would make a lot more sense. SciShow rules.

  5. This is reassures because i have known i have some worms inside. Only worms have evolved multiple time in our tree of life. The universe i thought to be tapered worm shaped

  6. Cut down on the carbs/sugar's and just eat mostly meat. There your cured you will feel much better and look a lot younger and have more energy.

  7. Worst about nematodes in your gut which usually don't even make you eat that much more and many species cause literally no harm other than this is that they trigger itches on the way out to make infected people scratch and thereby spread them more. If it wasn't for that hellish symptom that should not be overlooked, they might as well be symbiotes for all the helpful substances they release. But alas… who wants abominable butt itch?!

  8. maybe we should just start breeding people that don't have allergies or serious medical conditions.

    like me.

    don't worry ladies, there's enough of me to go around.

  9. solution
    genetically engineer a vaccine worms. put the vaccines in the worms and have people ingest them.
    you won't have auto immune issues and the worms will be bolstering your immune system in a "natural" way.

    Vaccination worms for the Win here. Just saying. for many it would be better than a shot to the arm every so often.
    Medical worms, symbiotic relations of the future.

  10. As long as the methods used are similar to Leech & Maggot therapy, I’d be okay with legalizing the more Symbolic of the parasitic worms & such.

  11. Asthma blamed on not having worms? Out of all the air pollution and you choose to have worms for a stronger immune system… so, not going to mars isnt a factor, cleaner energy use, or less CO2 admissions or even ocean pollution you choose worms?!

  12. Having parasites is like having hundreds of lil friends with you everywhere you go. They steal from you, and overall don't care about you in the bigger picture of things. Just like regular human friends. At least the parasites have some sort of helpful function.

  13. Its possible that these parasites are ONLY producing those immune system calming chemicals to prevent the immune system from attacking THEM, they don't really do it because they care about us…

  14. So, the obvious solution here is to genetically engineer completely sterile human tapeworms, deriving all the possible benefits of infection with none of the migratory egg or larvae issues and possibility of unintentional spreading.

  15. It's not parasitic worms, it's therapeutic worms.

    By putting one of these worms in your body, essentially putting an immunosuppressant factory in your own body.

    If it worked, it's an interesting concept indeed, which might make sense for people with auto immune disorders or who needs to reduce their immune response due to organ transplant or the likes, so that they wouldn't have to keep taking immunosuppressant drugs. Instead, they'd just have to nurture a healthy population of worms.

  16. Yeeeahhhhh but I think this is a case of corolation is not causation. Maybe, but this is disgusting, let's just harvest the chemicals from them in a lab

  17. I am 30 and have autoimmune arthritis. My rheumatologist says when women like me get pregnant their immune systems usually calm down. During the old times women had many children from an early age and these days we are deferring it and interfering with our hormones in a huge way. In saying that, I'm not going to pop out a kid before I'm in a good situation for it in hopes the pregnancy calms my arthritis down. I have heard of the worm thing too, mostly with human hookworms. I think I'd rather stay arthritic…. haha

  18. My old college professor was allergic to pretty much everything, he tried parasite therapy and he went from a super lanky weak body guy to almost average weight within one semester.

    Didn't fix all his allergies, but his milk and nut allergies went away and he could put on weight because he could actually eat.

  19. so, perhaps my playing barefooted in the dirt in the 1940's and 50's was good for me if i had picked up a parasitic worm

  20. Having grown up in unsanitary conditions, I see some weight in the Hygene Hypothesis. I seem to get less sick and have no known allergies, as opposed to most of my classmates.

    Now, I'm not saying don't bathe or anything. Just don't believe that you have to kill 99.9% of all germs like the soap ads say.
    Eat with dirt on your hands once in a while. Hell, that dirt is probably already in your lunch due to your running around kicking dust up.

  21. Worms being bad was already debunked by the documentary FUTURAMA.

    That's y I eat non stop and stay skinny. Good ole Roy Louphinstein. My tapeworm.

  22. what if its a side effect of the medicine being used to treat the removal of the worms rather than absence of the worms by themselves.

  23. if a doctor told me that they could cure my eczema with worms….i would be like….GImmie them Worms!

    so like im totally NOT gonna infect myself with worms or anything but like what is the Best Worm to Infect yourself with…if you were Going to….but IM totally not gonna do it…I just wanna know…for science

  24. You know. Being overweight and having a hard time losing it, I once ask my doctor if he would give me a tape worm. He was not amused. My reply was it safer than crack or meth. LOL

  25. If giving people worms helps MS or rheumatoid arthritis then we should use that. As long as it's not causing a host of other problems.

  26. 5"10, 24 year old male, I can eat anything and can't gain weight. Idk if it's my metabolism or what but I wouldn't really be that shocked to find out I have a tape worm.

  27. Gross. I'd love to know more and I kinda want more research on this topic because it seems really really important but ugh. Gross!

  28. This is incredibly interesting, but my daughters asthma has remained pretty bad through all her childhood ‘infections’ (including various unwelcome parasites!)…

  29. In my country. Old people always say (said) is good for children play with mud and soil, sometimes. Cause that increase the amount of cells of the inmune system. They say that cause they example of children who live o work in places like landfields.

  30. Maybe because the worms are fighting to survive within us, the worms are secreting certain chemicals, microbes ect into our blood system and bodily systems that help their survival and have a side effect of doing us a backhanded favour……… And just to think there are certain individuals who will deliberately ingest these things in order to loose weight……… ☮️⚛️

  31. So you're trying to say the only possibility is it's the worm and not the treatment getting rid of the worm that's giving us allergies…. right.

  32. My sister stopped having neurodermatitis everytime she had worms as a child, so in her case this was actually true!

  33. Why do we need to start this trend of tolerating our deciases. Parasites are parasites, they may spread something even more dangerous, they cause awful digestive system problems, like intestinal pain and blockage, vomiting, intoxication, loss of appetite and body weight. Been there. These guys absolutely don't have any idea what they are talking about.

  34. I made a joke about this to my mom, that I like to think of them as my special pets because we cuddle on the inside. My heart is happy to know it's true

  35. If it's good for you, why would you call them parasitic? Parasites are organisms that benefit while the hosts suffer, right? Then, if it's postive, how is it a parasite?

  36. The people who live in dump site rarely get sick from all those dirt, it is as if they arent affected by any bacteria or virus in their

  37. (not a medical professional) Given the behavioral symptoms and prevalence, this really makes me wonder about Toxoplasmosis. I've been told that there is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the parasite and cats, so I wonder if there could be a more symbiotic relationship in humans too.

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