The case of the Ulcerative Colitis patient who has achieved years of sustained remission using trichuris trichuira (human whipworm, the same helminth I’m using) that was first reported in the Scientific American article that I recently posted has blown up the health news world, well, relatively speaking.
CNN picked up the story, put it on the front page of their website and ran TV segments on it. Their online article received over 500+ comments alone. This is huge exposure for helminthic therapy and will surely help garner more attention to this incredibly promising therapy. Over the past two weeks the story has popped up all over the place.
CNN.com: Man Finds Extreme Healing Eating Parasitic Worms (Dec. 9)
NPR: Eat Your Worms: The Upside of Parasites (Dec. 2)
Los Angeles Times: New hints on how helminth worms heal ulcerative colitis (Dec. 1)
The Hindu: When overzealous immune system is to blame (Dec. 9)
The Boston Globe: Studies hint parasites can be good for you (Dec. 6)
Business Week: Worm Therapy Show Promise For Ulcerative Colitis (Dec. 1)
ABC.com: Man doses himself with a parasite for intestinal problems (Dec. 2)
MSNBC.com: Have a gut problem? Try swallowing some worms (Dec. 2)
Aol.com: Study: Swallowing worms soothed man’s ulcerative colitis (Dec. 2)
Discover.com: A New Treatment for Bowel Problems: Eating 1,000 Parasitic Worm Eggs (Dec. 2)
While I think it’s great for helminthic therapy to continue getting increasing news coverage, the news critic in me just cannot get over the absolute froth-at-the-mouth excitement of journalists at this story. The narratives here go something like this: OMG! A wacky guy travelled to some wacky tropical poor exotic place and swallowed WORM EGGS (OMG OMG GROSSSS) to cure some tummy issues (who cares?) and some goofy scientists are buying it! Hmm, who can come up with the most hyperbolic headline?
It would be really fantastic if any of these journalists did even 20 minutes worth of wikipedia reading or googling on this story, rather than just repeating it verbatim. If they did, they’d learn a few things;
This is NOT a new idea or therapy. Props to news organizations like the BBC which ran this story seven years ago–when the idea of using helminths to treat IBD and other autoimmune diseases was actually new.
BBC: Eat Worms, Feel Better (published ‘way back’ in 2003)
Nor is it “one crazy guy” who swallowed worms eggs to treat his IBD any longer, there are now many hundreds of us. If any of the reporters writing this story wanted a news story that was both accurate and highly revelatory about our system of healthcare research that is dominated by corporate interests and the bottom-line of big pharma, they could include in their story WHY it has been decades with very few scientific studies published on this therapy, despite incredible potential in the animal and few human trials done. WHY hundreds of us have been driven to join up in an kind of underground online worm community, sharing our experiences, experimenting largely without medical guidance (save Marc and a few other heros), having to leave the country on ‘medical vacations’ to receive worms from suppliers who have been harassed and chased out of the U.S. by the FDA. Is that not a compelling news story?! Of course, to have a story like that would mean going against the interests of the very pharma corporations who both are owned by their parent companies (5 super-corporate conglomerates dominate our media system) and provide a huge % of the advertising revenue for their shows–especially on cable news. Hmm, I’ll take swallowing 1,000 parasitic worm eggs over having to watch CNN or FOX any day.
Enough with my rant. Exposure is exposure, and we need it. Keep it comin’ boys, Hoorah!
What’s perhaps most exciting, for me at least, there was a brief reference to helminthic therapy on the Daily Show, as Jon Stewart was rediculuing CNN for using the explosive diarrhea scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber as a lead into their story on helminthic therapy. As someone who has suffered from years of running to the bathroom and sometimes debilitating and humiliating bowel problems (along the the 1.5 million other Americans with IBD), it was a bit offensive, and I was smiling big to see my boy J Stew put the smack down on CNN for their ridiculousness.
J Stew on CNN for their intro to story on “worm cure” (it’s at around 12:00 minutes into the episode)
*Shout out to fellow helminth-comrade Debora over at watingforthecure.com for finding the Daily Show reference.