January 2013

The Hookworm Underground: Will parasite users accelerate the science?

With very little fanfare, something remarkable happened recently. The “Hookworm underground”—the international community of people treating their autoimmune and allergic diseases with parasites acquired on underground markets—made the pages of the journal Nature. Nature is among THE preeminent scientific journals in the world, second perhaps only to the journal Science (although I’m sure some would
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Epidemic on EverydayHealth

A video piece Everyday Health did on my hookworm self-infection experiment.
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The carcinogenic microbiome: slap your microbes around, and they slap you back

Two notable studies on the microbiome in colon cancer came out late last year. The first, published in Science, basically asked what happens when our native microbes are exposed to constant inflammation — how does it affect them, and how does this altered community affect us, their hosts? The experiment occurred in mice that had a crucial immune signaling molecule knocked out called IL10. These mice respond to
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Can parasites prevent autoimmune diabetes?

I wrote a guest post over at the Human Food Project on a study testing how parasites might stabilize the microbiome and prevent autoimmune type 1 diabetes. Prevention is if course the Holy Grail. Much better than trying to manage or halt ongoing autoimmune disease. I also encourage people to check out The American Gut Project, an open source attempt to catalog what’s living in… well, American guts.
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You owe your existence to the vaginal microbiome

A piece in Slate on the vaginal microbiome’s role in human existence. (And yes, there’s also a penile microbiome. When I figure out a compelling angle, I’ll pen an article on it. Suggestions welcome.) The major takeaways from this article. First: the places we assumed were sterile (uterus, ovaries, lungs) are turning out to naturally contain microbes. My bet is that any part of the body connected to
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What do breast milk and parasites have in common?

I don’t know how I missed this the first time — probably because of the nearly incomprehensibly jargon-y title — but in a study published late last year, Harvard scientists showed that a sugar derived from parasitic worms could reverse metabolic syndrome in mice. The sugar works as an immune suppressant. Here’s the oddest part: the two places humans encounter this sugar in “nature”
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