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Helminth Therapy: A Possible Intervention for PANS/PANDAS, Lyme and Co-infections, Mold, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

helminth therapy Jan 17, 2024
Helminth Therapy

Have We Done Enough for This Child?

As a pediatrician and functional medicine practitioner, I’m always asking, “Have we done enough for this child?” It is estimated that 20% of children are diagnosed with chronic illness, and the rates continue to rise.

Some reports even estimate that one in every two individuals are diagnosed with a chronic illness, many of which are autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases pose a challenge as the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. It’s often a debilitating, frustrating, and overwhelming state for not only the child, but also the entire family unit.

It's understandable that everyone wants to ease symptoms as soon as possible in children with PANS/PANDAS, Lyme and Co-infections, Mold disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While more invasive immunotherapy interventions such as IVIG, plasmapheresis, or monoclonal antibodies may seem like a necessary intervention, we’ve found an alternative intervention that may be a game changer.  It is   not only less invasive but also effective. This therapy is using Helminths, specifically HDCs.

What exactly are Helminths?

Helminths, also known as HDCs (Hymenolepis diminuta cysticercoids), are mutualistic organisms in the form of microscopic eggs that interact with their host to both parties’ benefit. Helminth therapy works by reconstituting our microbiome, reintroducing Hymenolepis diminuta cysticercoids (HDCs) to the human biome specifically targeting the gut's inflammatory response to reduce the severity of allergic reactions, atopy, and autoimmune conditions.

HDCs are also Th2-inducing organisms and can regulate and control an overactive Th1 cytokine response. As a result, the presence of HDCs in the microbiome induces immune tolerance and decreases the likelihood of a hyperactive inflammatory or autoimmune response.

Lastly, as a mutalist, rather than a parasite, HDCs shift the immune system to a more regulatory and less reactive state. This is different from the actions of a parasite such as hookworms or whipworms as parasitic interactions occur when one organism (the parasite) benefits and the host is harmed.

Where We Started and Where We’re Headed with Helminths

I often get asked, “Are HDC’s new and cutting edge?”  HDC’s were part of our normal microbiome before we became an industrialized society and they’re still prevalent in the microbiome of citizens in developing countries (where there is less autoimmune disease).

Over the years, the gut microbiome of the general population has been altered because of the increase in births by Cesarean section, which has been linked to increased allergic diseases, and the increase in formula feeding over breastfeeding. Smaller family size tends to have a negative impact as well, as studies have shown that children from large families are at lower risk of developing allergies.

Currently, Helminth-induced immune changes could have positive effects in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), given the relationship between the immune system and neurodevelopment. The ongoing research is examining how these autoimmune diseases and their treatment with helminths could potentially lead to advances in therapy for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Helminth Therapy Explained

I know what you may be thinking, Helminth Therapy sounds complicated and complex. Not exactly! Helminth Therapy involves drinking ~1 ml of a salty liquid every 3 weeks. This intervention is easy to implement in even the most restrictive and picky children, as many parents will add it to a liquid that they know their child will drink completely. HDC therapy is safe, and risk of infestation is extremely small, as long as the child is not constipated and not on any immunosuppressive medications.

As with everything, it is always recommended to start low and increase slowly. When this intervention is first implemented and when increasing the dosage, it is possible that there will be an increase in negative symptoms for a short period of time. This is similar to a “die off” reaction presentation or Herxheimer reaction and is caused by the body’s immune response to the HDCs. If this occurs, it is part of the healing process, is temporary and can be lessened with implementing an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory protocol to manage the reaction.

Decode Helminth Therapy With Dr. O Hara

Helminth therapy can be a safe and effective treatment for autoimmune diseases. Dr. Nancy O'Hara stands at the forefront of integrating such novel therapies into practice by emphasizing a tailored and compassionate approach to healthcare. For medical practitioners wanting more information or assistance in treating children with autoimmune conditions, consider a mentoring consult with Dr O’Hara. For parents, reach out to your practitioner to learn more or join our membership where we discuss Helminth Therapy and much more in our monthly teachings.

Nancy O'Hara


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