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Duke Medicine News & Communications: Worms and Germs Lead to Better Immune Function

Science post imageThank you to Safeminds for their support on this study.

By Duke Medicine News and Communications

DURHAM, N.C. – A growing body of evidence in the medical community holds that greater diversity of bacteria and even worms in the digestive tract offers protection against a variety of allergic and autoimmune problems.

Germs from healthy people can be used to heal people with digestive disorders and other conditions caused by the loss of their own germs, and worms that live in the gut, called helminths, have shown success in quelling inflammatory diseases.

With this in mind, researches at Duke Medicine hypothesized that enhancing biodiversity in laboratory rats, including treating the rats with worms, would suppress their immune systems. Because worms have been shown to subdue inflammatory diseases such as asthma and allergies, the thinking was, the treated immune system would not fight infections as effectively.

Actual findings were quite the opposite. Researchers found enhanced rather than suppressed immune function in animals with increased biodiversity.

Publishing online in the April 8, 2015, issue of PLOS ONE, the findings add to the growing understanding of the complex environment in the digestive tract and its role in maintaining health.

“We were surprised – we thought enhancing biodiversity would make the animals more immune-suppressed,” said senior author William Parker, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery at Duke. “But it appears that at the same time we enhanced the biodiversity in a way that should suppress allergy and auto-immunity, we also enhanced the immune response to a variety of stimuli.”

Parker and colleagues went to lengths to place the laboratory rats in a natural environment that would closely recreate natural levels of biodiversity.

“We intentionally loaded them with worms, and we housed them with wild rats that we caught around town,” Parker said. “We also had to keep these ‘natural rats’ in a facility far away from any other population of study animals so that they didn’t contaminate the rest of our laboratory rats.”

These so-called natural rats ended up with the genetics and domestication of laboratory rats, yet with digestive biodiversity more similar to wild rats. The next step was to compare immune function between the natural rats and the cleaner, traditional laboratory rats.

Researchers found that enhanced biodiversity was associated with better immune responsiveness. Specifically, they found better responses to vaccination, better T-cell responses, and much higher levels of “natural” antibodies, which have been shown to be important in fighting cancer.

Parker said the study suggests that biome enrichment might serve as an “immune trainer” to improve immune function and overall health.

“In our clean environment, rats and by extension humans, are not doing well,” Parker said. “We are potentially seeing a decreased ability to respond to dangerous antigens while, at the same time, we respond to things that we shouldn’t, causing allergies and autoimmune problems. This work demonstrates we all may really need better biodiversity, and perhaps that biodiversity needs to be artificially introduced back in the system.”

In addition to Parker, study authors include Cinthia Pi, Emma H. Allott, Daniel Ren, Susan Poulton, S. Y. Ryan Lee, Sarah Perkins, Mary Lou Everett, Zoie E. Holzknecht, and Shu S. Lin.

The study received support from the Coalition for SafeMinds.



Bob, I agree with all that you say here, but we may need to quit comparing the use of mercury to the practice of bloodletting, as if bloodletting was all bad. There may have been uses that whereas the science was unknown as to why it would EVER work, nowadays there is a lot of science as to why it can work in certain situations, just like vaccine science and immunology is progressing.

Clinically clean use of maggots and leeches is being used very successfully to heal diabetic wounds that won't heal, among other things. I've been following it for several years now.


I would like to see Duke do a study of the effect of bt toxin gmo crops and roundup ready crops on the gut microbiome.
Glyphosate is patented as an antibiotic.
This is an explanation of what bt toxin does to insects from u of ca san diego
"Bt has to be eaten to cause mortality. the bt toxin dissolves in the high ph insect gut and becomes active. The toxins then attack the gut cells of the insect, punching holes in the lining. The bt spores spill out of the gut, germinate in the insect causing death within a couple of days."
Are we turning the human gut into a pesticide factory when we eat these crops on a regular basis?


Interesting study on npr today about the microbiome of a tribe in venezuela the yanomami.
Microbiologists found very diverse bacteria. But a big surprise was antibiotic resistant bacterial genes- these people didnt have antibiotics, the genes were silenced!

They now have given vaccines to these people so it may illuminate why vaccines are so harmful to the gut.


Don't know the significance, but wanted to mention that Willy Burgdorfer, who found the lyme disease spirochete in ticks also found a nematode worm in the ticks from shelter island off long island, potential for disease unknown. Pamela Weintraub mentioned that it was on a list Burgdorfer showed her.


Is anyone else thinking of Mr Heckenlively's Plague when reading this?
There was a study done at Washington University in St Louis-
From the summary june 26 2014
"Signals from the immune system that help repel a common parasite inadvertently can cause a dormant viral infection to become active again, a new study shows...the study helps illustrate how complex interaction between infectious agents and the immune system have the potential to affect illness"

Another study of leismania protozoan parasite showed a strain infected with a virus provoked an especially strong macrophage response because it was very pathogenic.

I'm not convinced by this article.


Will common sense prevail in medicine -- well -- ???

Not likely!

looking at the history of medicine - it is not a science based and never has been practice. They have guessed through out history. Mercury - that pretty heavy silver stuff might prolong life as it was given regularly to the t emperor of China, Arsenic to King George the king of England during the Revolutionary war, blood letting the very sick and weak.

The only thing they seemed to be really good at - were wounds from battle fields. You all ever noticed that?

So we now get include taking a sledge hammer (vaccines) making the immune system react not to just Clostida lockjaw but the whole range of a very large group of clostrida bacteria which are mostly soil bacteria that evolution has nurtured.

I hope that we will not coming into a new guessing game era of what worms to give people.


Very frustrating to see the usual, instead of wondering how we got here down this wrong path, instead of wondering if we should go back, they just look at where we are and are determined to keep going forward. Which is not to say that a cure for those severely affected isn't a worthy goal and doesn't require treatment. I get the sense that they still are very short sighted, not seeing the bigger picture, and will go on to cause more damage with their hubris and lack of wisdom and understanding.

Bob Moffitt

Duke study "suggests":

“In our clean environment, rats and by extension humans, are not doing well,” Parker said. “We are potentially seeing a decreased ability to respond to dangerous antigens while, at the same time, we respond to things that we shouldn’t, causing allergies and autoimmune problems. This work demonstrates we all may really need better biodiversity, and perhaps that biodiversity needs to be artificially introduced back in the system.”

Common sense "suggests" .. an unnaturally "clean environment" for infants and toddlers has been "created" through the aggressive recommended and approved vaccine schedule for children whose immune systems are at a critical stage of development .. "artificially" decreasing the "biodiversity" challenges required for a healthy immune system going forward.

How is it possible that Duke can reach conclusions suggesting greater "biodiversity" actually increases immune function and efficiency .. while ignoring vaccines as a possible contributing factor to reducing that critically needed "biodiversity"?

Maybe someday .. the medical profession will assign vaccines to scrap heap of medicine .. where "blood-letting" .. and .. "mercury" as a cure for syphillis .. reside today.

Of course .. there is a lot more money to be made by vaccines than bloodletting or mercury based baby teething compound's once commonly used.

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