Gastrointestinal parasites: potential therapy for refractory inflammatory bowel diseases

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2005 Feb;11(2):178-84. doi: 10.1097/00054725-200502000-00012.


Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic relapsing inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). Different pharmacological agents are currently used in several combinations to control the inflammatory process. Recently, antibodies against the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha appeared to be very effective in treating patients with Crohn's disease. However, due to the fact that the pathogen causing IBD is still unknown, no causative treatment is currently available that is able to make the disease disappear. Recently, the hygiene hypothesis of the development of immunological diseases was proposed, stating that raising children in extremely hygienic environments with less exposure to parasite infections may negatively affect the development of the immune system, predisposing them to immunologic diseases such as IBD. This hypothesis is supported by experimental data showing that helminthic parasites protect against T helper (TH) type 1 cell-mediated gastrointestinal inflammations like Crohn's disease. Both TH-2 cells and regulatory T cells may be involved in this immunomodulatory mechanism. Here, we review the experimental and clinical studies in favor of the hygiene hypothesis, opening perspectives on new therapies for IBD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation
  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Child
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / immunology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / parasitology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy*
  • Crohn Disease / immunology
  • Crohn Disease / parasitology*
  • Crohn Disease / therapy*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Digestive System / immunology
  • Helminths / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / growth & development
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Ovum
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigens, Helminth