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Op-Ed: Hookworms to the rescue for MS, diabetes, asthma? Apparently so.

This study is a truly insightful thing. If you were looking for a generic manager of a range of conditions including aging, your instant answer probably wouldn’t be hookworms. It takes a fairly demanding type of logic to associate a parasite problem with multiple possible medical benefits.
Hookworms are medically an infection, with a range of symptoms. They’re a class of gut parasite called “helminths”, including tapeworms, flukes, and nematodes. These infections aren’t exactly pleasant. So this study has found a range of benefits which were to put it mildly not on the radar.
Hookworms are believed to manipulate the immune system. They deliver a range of benefits in the process:
• Lower inflammation levels, notably “inflammageing”, a problem for older people.
• Lack of helminths is linked to a range of diseases, notably multiple sclerosis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Using proteins derived from the helminths, therapies may be possible. This idea has another string to its violin. Humans have adapted to a degree of tolerance of hookworms, so the proteins, generic potential loose cannons for immune responses, may be easier to use as treatments.
This is an extraordinary outcome for any type of research. While there’s obviously a lot of work to do, such a wide-range of possible therapies is exceptional.
Also interesting is the fact that a specific set of proteins can do these things. Managing proteins is true Big Research these days, and it’s fascinating. The new science is now showing how versatile, and mobile (!!!???) proteins are. So the hookworm proteins discovery has come along at exactly the right time for research. Imagine all those horrible conditions being eradicated!

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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