Cure for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

The leading cause of morbidity in captive rhesus monkeys is a condition called idiopathic chronic diarrhea (ICD), a condition similar to the inflammatory disease ulcerative colitis in humans. Since parasitic worms have recently been used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases in humans, researchers Broadhurst et al., decided to try this therapy in infected monkeys. Young rhesus macaques were administered 1000 human whipworm eggs (Trichuris trichiura) orally (don't worry, they are microscopic). The results: 4 out of 5 of the treated monkeys had reduced diarrhea and began gaining weight.    

parasite whipworm egg colitis ibs

Whipworm egg imaged at 400X magnification. Wikimedia Commons/Joel Mills

Until now, it was not known how the worms improved gut health in humans. Researchers just knew that inflammatory bowel diseases were not as prevalent in areas of the world where these parasitic infections are common in people. The results of this study showed that the bacterial colony of the infected animals changed significantly following the treatment suggesting the worms help to restore the balance of gut microbes. Broadhurst et al., speculate that the eggs stimulate extra mucus production and renewal of epithelial cells lining the digestive tract. They also discovered decreased expression of genes involved in inflammation suggesting the presence of fewer inflammatory bacteria.


Broadhurst MJ, Ardeshir A, Kanwar B, Mirpuri J, Gundra UM, Leung JM, Wiens KE, Vujkovic-Cvijin I, Kim CC, Yarovinsky F, Lerche NW, McCune JM, Loke P. Therapeutic Helminth Infection of Macaques with Idiopathic Chronic Diarrhea Alters the Inflammatory Signature and Mucosal Microbiota of the Colon. PLoS Pathogens. 8(11): e1003000. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003000

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oh no. Bad news a comin' . People will be self medicating with parasites.

The gut microbiome can be altered positively or negatively in several ways. The references below use a probiotic to influence the course of inflammatory bowel disease and symptoms of diarrhea, gas, etc. in humans. It may well work for these other primates, too.

Effects of a proprietary Bacillus coagulans preparation on symptoms of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.
Dolin BJ.
Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Dec;31(10):655-9.
PMID: 20140275 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

A Prospective, Randomized, Double–blind, Placebo–controlled Parallel–group Dual Site Trial To Evaluate The Effects Of A Bacillus Coagulans–based Product On Functional Intestinal Gas Symptoms
BMC Gastroenterology, 2009, 9:85
Douglas S Kalman*1, Howard I Schwartz1, Patricia Alvarez2, Samantha Feldman1, John C Pezzullo1 and Diane R Krieger1

Bacillus Coagulans Significantly Improved Abdominal Pain And Bloating In Patients With IBS
Postgraduate Medicine, 2009; 121(2): 119–124
Larysa Hun