(Self-) infections with parasites: re-interpretations for the present

Trends Parasitol. 2014 Aug;30(8):377-85. doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2014.06.005. Epub 2014 Jul 14.


Previously, scientists sometimes resorted to infecting themselves or colleagues with parasites, usually to assess the pathogenicity and obtain insight into the life cycles of the parasites, host specificity, and epidemiology. However, with recent research addressing the possible beneficial impact of intestinal helminths on a range of immune-mediated diseases in humans, these studies offer valuable information, although many are now considered unethical owing to a lack of experimental oversight and informed consent. Here, we critically review cases in which humans were deliberately infected with parasites. Moreover, we summarize the contribution of (self-) infections and propose protist and helminth candidates, chosen on the basis of several criteria, to test as possible therapy for selected human diseases.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; helminth therapy; helminths; protists; self-infection; volunteers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / parasitology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / therapy
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Eukaryota / immunology
  • Helminths / immunology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immune System Phenomena
  • Parasitic Diseases / immunology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / transmission*