The latest health trend might change the way you think about parasites. Hymenolepis diminuta, the scientific name for larval-stage rat tapeworms, are being ingested by swallowing the egg-like sac for the sake of maintaining ‘good health’.

Biome Restoration, the company that sells vials of larval-stage rat tapeworms, claimed approximately 2,000 customers are interested in trying out this new trend worldwide.

There is a growing online presence and demands for such live parasite products have prompted the set-up of Biome Restoration. Their products are cheaper and more affordable than what is already available and do not question their customers why they consume the worms, because of MHRA regulations.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the sale of the product on a sole condition: No specific health claims can be made. The company has begun the shipping process since then.

Judy Chinitz, co-founder of Biome Restoration, explained how the product should be eaten by saying, “You swallow the egg-like sac and in the small intestine bile triggers the larvae to come out. They eat microscopic bits of food, but die in 10 days.”

A hot and worming trend

Reports claimed that more than 7,000 people worldwide have jumped on the bandwagon of helminthic therapy – consuming parasitic worms for treating several health conditions. These include a wide range of autoimmune and mental health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and depression.

The science behind the idea is that parasites were common inhabitants of the human bodies, which secreted substances to pacify the immune system, so they could survive in the human gut.

In Germany, a Thai company Tanawisa, sells pig whipworms, and is currently seeking approval for it to be a food ingredient. According to researchers, “pig whipworms can survive passage through the stomach, with larvae emerging in the caecum, a pouch-like region of the gut where the small and large intestines meet.”

If accepted, it will become the first officially approved product of its kind in Europe.

The Biome Restoration team is happy that their rival product is being considered as a food ingredient and hopes that it does get approved in Germany.

“It will mean there’s finally recognition from regulators that biome enrichment with benign helminths is akin to simply taking another form of probiotic,” says Chinitz.

If Germany approves pig whipworms, it will be legally sold in shops and soon enough, it might get approved by other European countries to be sold there as well.

Developers claim that the logic behind the ingesting of worms is to help rich nations combat the increasing health issues such as, inflammatory bowel problems, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Not all experts are convinced with the efficacy of the therapy

So far, experts have had different opinions on the ingestion of parasites. In a range of trials in France, researchers have concluded that live worms if ingested can help to alleviate the many symptoms of inflammatory diseases.

Some experts remain unconvinced that ingesting live worms is hygienic enough for one’s body or that it can help fix other health issues. Several researchers have blasted this trend by calling it a form of pseudoscience cult therapies.

Helena Helmby, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “Self-medication with any type of worm is not recommended and it is important to remember they’re not in any way completely harmless, and may cause quite severe side effects if not monitored very carefully by a doctor.”

Aaron Blackwell from the University of California thinks that more research should be done on the ingestion of live worms and its effects. Despite that, he still thinks that there is no harm in ingesting live worms as according to him, “taking these eggs may be no worse than many other dietary supplements that many people use regularly”. MIMS

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