It turns out there are useful parasites besides real estate brokers: helminths, worm-like, "gut-dwelling" parasites are being used to treat gastrointestinal disorders like colitis or Crohn's disease. One study of 52 people with colitis conducted by a doctor at Tufts showed marked improvements with subjects who were treated with whipworm eggs. Another proponent of the early science: Sullivan Street Bakery's Jim Lahey, who recently implanted intestinal worms in himself to combat a gluten sensitivity he developed from his constant exposure to flour. "These worms are meant to be in our bodies as part of human evolution," Lahey says. And Christian Scientists should dig them too, as worms are all over the Bible.
Fast Company spoke with the Tufts physician, Joel Weinstock, who explained that indeed worms were a part of life until we started getting all prissy about hygiene and what we put into our bodies. “Think about the diseases that emerged in the 20th century: Food allergy was exceedingly rare. Now, it’s very common," Weinstock says, pointing to increases in chronic inflammatory diseases as another example of the effects of not having tiny, slithery things inside of our bowels.
Weinstock estimates that widespread worm-treatment is still about three years away. “Right now, it’s hard to know what to recommend because ‘going and playing in the mud’ might expose you to the right organisms or the wrong organisms," he says. "Eventually, though, we’ll have an agent that we may give to children like a vaccine.”