Worms and hot baths: new treatments for autism


About one in 88 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One hypothesis of ASD is that a hyperactive immune system which creates elevated levels of inflammation may contribute to the disorder. It is known that approximately one in three people with ASD show a clinical improvement in symptoms in response to a fever.

Two unusual ideas

Working with that hypothesis, researchers have devised two unusual treatment approaches to ASD. Both show improvements in symptoms. The first is a hot bath. It seems that submersion in hot water mimics the effects of infection and brings a reduction in symptoms. The second idea is using worm eggs to stimulate the production of immunoregulatory factors in the gut to diminish inflammatory signals.

Hot baths

A fever may trigger the release of protective anti-inflammatory signals in the body. Researchers found that children with ASD and a history of positive behavioral response to fever had improved social behaviors when bathed daily in a hot tub at 102 degrees F.

Whipworm eggs

The worm approach takes some explaining. Adults with ASD were treated for 10 weeks with Trichuris suis ova (aka TSO), the eggs of the whip worm. The worm is safe. It does not multiply in the host, it is not transmittable by contact, and it clears out on its own. What the worms do, and apparently they do it effectively, is inhibit immune-mediated responses and diminish inflammation. For this study 12 high functioning adults were chosen. They were given 2500 eggs every two weeks. There was also a control group. At the end of the study, they found improvement in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors in response to the worm treatment. “TSO has been shown to improve various immune inflammatory illness by shifting the ratio of T regular/T helper cells and their respective cytokines…” explained Dr. Eric Hollander, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

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