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Hookworms help celiac disease symptoms

Lana Bandoim's picture

A new study offers hope to people who suffer from celiac disease and a way to reduce symptoms. Researchers at James Cook University have discovered that hookworms can help patients tolerate gluten. The proteins secreted by the parasitic worms may offer an important key to fighting inflammation and several disorders.


It is estimated that 500 million people around the world are infected with hookworms. These nematodes are considered parasitic and can be found in the small intestine. However, researchers believe they have found a way to use them to treat gluten intolerance. Their goal is to use the proteins made by the hookworms to create a pill or other type of medication to help people with celiac disease.

The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, included a group of people who suffered from celiac disease. They were infected with hookworms and allowed to eat increasing amounts of gluten. Researchers stated that their tolerance for the protein increased as the study progressed, so they were able to eat a bowl of regular spaghetti without feeling any side effects. The parasitic worms were responsible for their ability to tolerate gluten. Although the researchers offered the group medication to eliminate the infection of hookworms once the study was over, the group decided to decline the offer because of how it felt.

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A hookworm infection is not the ultimate cure for celiac disease because it carries its own risks. Anemia is one of the many health problems the worms can cause in humans. However, researchers hope to use the study to understand how the proteins made by the hookworms are able to allow people to eat gluten without feeling sick. They believe that the proteins have anti-inflammatory properties that can be collected into a more desirable form that does not involve infection. Scientists believe this will help people with celiac disease and other conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

Read more about celiac disease:
Celiac disease tips for making bread at home
Celiac disease apps help create gluten-free meal plans

Image: Hookworm disease world map, Lokal_Profil/Wikimedia Commons