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'Worm Pill' To Ease Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

Update Date: Aug 11, 2014 12:51 PM EDT

A molecule in parasitic worms could help explain why worm infections can effectively treat a number of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, a new study suggests. 

Researchers have successfully identified peptides from parasitic worms that suppress the body's immune response. According to researchers, the discovery could lead to new drugs containing the peptide that could provide relief from autimmune diseases symptoms. 

"There are more than eighty autoimmune diseases, ranging in severity from mild to life threatening in some cases. While some affect mainly one area or organ, others can affect many parts of the body," said lead researcher Professor Ray Norton from Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), in the press release. 

"Many people believe there's a link between the rise in autoimmune diseases and an increased focus on cleanliness in western societies, because the immune system is no longer exposed to the broad range of infections that previous generations had to deal with."

Instead using worms, researchers focused on searching for the active components responsible for immunomodulatory effects in parasitic worms. 

"There could be some truth to this because worm infection is virtually unheard of in developed countries, yet the incidence of autoimmune diseases is high. But in developing countries the opposite is true," he added. 

The study is detailed in the FASEB Journal. 

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