In the last 50 years, environmental factors such as helminth infections have been proposed to explain why autoimmunity is less prevalent in the developing world; this proposal has been termed the hygiene or old friends hypothesis. The epidemiology of MS shows an inverse correlation with helminth infections. Positive effects of helminths in animal models of MS and observational studies in people with MS naturally infected with helminths suggest that those organisms can act as immune regulators and led to clinical trials of helminth therapy. The goal of helminth therapy is to introduce parasitic organisms into people with MS in a controlled and predictable fashion, and to prevent immune-mediated disease without increasing the risk of pathology with high parasite load. This chapter focuses on intestinal worms as they are the current choice as a therapeutic strategy in a number of autoimmune diseases, including MS. Here we review current data regarding the rationale and the current state of research in the field of helminth therapies in MS.
Keywords: Helminth; Hygiene hypothesis; Immunoregulation; Multiple sclerosis.