Testing a Worm Egg Cocktail to Treat MS

Five multiple sclerosis patients try the unorthodox therapy next month.

ByABC News
March 14, 2008, 6:13 PM

March 17, 2008— -- It sounds like a remedy straight out of a witch's brew: a cocktail of worm eggs, destined to hatch inside the bodies of those who swallow them.

But make no mistake, there's science behind this remedy. And doctors who are embarking on a small initial trial of the worm egg cocktail in patients with the degenerative condition multiple sclerosis have high hopes that it will one day offer another fight against the debilitating disease.

There are already some hints that this potential remedy, which involves drinking the eggs of worms known as helminths, actually works. A recent study out of Argentina suggested that people already infected with this kind of worm experienced fewer symptoms of MS than those who were not infected.

These findings have led to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug administration of a small trial of the therapy next month on five patients. The trial, led by University of Wisconsin Hospital neurologist Dr. John Fleming, will determine if a helminth egg cocktail will be tolerated by these patients, and perhaps relieve some of their symptoms.

The very fact that the trial is going forward has officials at Ovamed, the German company that produces the worm eggs used in the research, hopeful that the therapy will prove to be a useful treatment with few of the side effects associated with some other MS treatments.

"Because it is a very natural approach, it takes a few weeks until it can unfold its full mode of action to show considerable improvements," says Detlev Goj, CEO of Ovamed. "However, this is something we are happy to accept in exchange for lacking such severe side effects most conventional medications have."

Such a therapy has already proved useful in treating some sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease. And because the approach uses the eggs of worms that normally infect pigs instead of those that infect humans, scientists hope that the disease associated with natural infection with these parasites can be avoided.