Potential beneficial effects of hookworms on gluten consumption

By Jason Clevenger

It may be a revolting concept to many, but intentional infection with an intestinal parasite may be part of future celiac disease therapy. A group of Australian researchers has been particularly active in understanding the potential beneficial effects of hookworms on the ability of humans to safely consume gluten. Hookworm infestation has been shown to change the immune response to gluten in the intestine, although the exact mechanism is unknown and it has not yet shown a clinical benefit. The researchers speculate that while co-evolution with parasites has occurred over the history of mankind until very recently, our modern parasite-free immune systems have not yet adjusted to optimally regulate autoimmune processes and defense against external pathogens.