Background & aims: Ulcerative colitis is most common in Western industrialized countries. Inflammatory bowel disease is uncommon in developing countries where helminths are frequent. People with helminths have an altered immunological response to antigens. In animal models, helminths prevent or improve colitis by the induction of regulatory T cells and modulatory cytokines. This study determined the efficacy and safety of the helminth Trichuris suis in therapy of ulcerative colitis.
Methods: This was a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at the University of Iowa and select private practices. Trichuris suis ova were obtained from the US Department of Agriculture. The trial included 54 patients with active colitis, defined by an Ulcerative Colitis Disease Activity Index of > or =4. Patients were recruited from physician participants and were randomly assigned to receive placebo or ova treatment. Patients received 2500 Trichuris suis ova or placebo orally at 2-week intervals for 12 weeks.
Results: The primary efficacy variable was improvement of the Disease Activity Index to > or =4. After 12 weeks of therapy, improvement according to the intent-to-treat principle occurred in 13 of 30 patients (43.3%) with ova treatment compared with 4 of 24 patients (16.7%) given placebo (P = .04). Improvement was also found with the Simple Index that was significant by week 6. The difference in the proportion of patients who achieved an Ulcerative Colitis Disease Activity Index of 0-1 was not significant. Treatment induced no side effects.
Conclusions: Ova therapy seems safe and effective in patients with active colitis.