Wednesday, February 15, 2017

All’s well that wormswell

Here’s the sum total of what I know (or thought I knew) about hookworm:

  • Runny-nosed, overall-wearing kids in the South got it from walking around barefoot in areas where there wasn’t a lot of indoor plumbing
  • Hookworms wormed their way into the kids’ bloodstream through the soles of those bare feet
  • The kids became anemic, emaciated, sickly
  • The Rockefeller Foundation wiped out hookworm in the American South early in the previous century

I have absolutely no idea why we would have been taught about hookworm in grammar school, but I’m pretty sure that’s where I learned about it. Was it a way to demonstrate both Northern superiority and largesse? Did the nuns want to point out that Protestants – who lived in the South – got hookworm, while Catholics – who lived in the North – didn’t?

In any case,that’s my deep dive on hookworm.

And then my brother-in-law, Rick, who apparently has as much time as I do to while away the hours skipping around the ‘net looking for weird stuff, pointed me in the direction of Wormswell.

Wormswell’s is selling hookworms – members of the helminth family -which they claim can be used to treat a raft of disorders:

Clinical trials on animals have shown helminths to be effective in treating asthma, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, food allergy, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In the limited number of studies using human subjects to date it, has been seen to be safe and effective in treating allergies, asthma, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and there are studies on going at present into these and a number of other immune mediated conditions.

I had heard about people using fecal transplants for certain disorders. In fact, I believe that there’s a non-profit outside Boston that accepts stool donations which it passes on to those suffering from colitis. So I guess if someone’s willing to treat themselves with shit, it’s not a big leap to treatment with hookworms.

The need for all these new approaches to inflammatory diseases is because said diseases have proliferated. One hypothesis is that the proliferation has been brought out precisely because modernity – and folks like the Rockefeller Foundation who went through the South wiping out hookworm – has done too good a job. We’ve sanitized ourselves to such an extent that we don’t have enough of the microorganisms needed to keep us healthy.

Anyway, it turns out that hookworms – necator americanus – are particularly ideal for helminth treatment. So, if you’re suffering, you can order up some hookworms for Wormswell. What they’ll send you is a vial containing clear liquid and hookworm larvae (5 hookworms for $85, 25 for $200), along with info on how to apply it to your foot. (In the old days, kids in the South just had to step in a place where someone had crapped.) It wends it way into your system where it does good. Or so the theory goes.

If you live in the US, you actually can’t get them delivered, since the FDA hasn’t yet blessed this treatment. And, quite quirkily (at least to me), you have to use bitcoins to pay for your order.

I have to say that I would feel creepy crawly if I had creepy crawlies creeping and crawling inside my gastrointestinal system. I’m sure I’d have tapeworm nightmares, and wake up in the middle of the night quite certain that a 50 foot tapeworm was about to escape through my left nostril. But if I had to pick between hookworms and a fecal transplant, I actually don’t know which I’d choose. With luck, I won’t have to ever make a decision of this sort. Not that I’d worm out of making it. I just hope it never comes up through the sole of my bare foot.

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