Helminth therapy for autism under gut-brain axis- hypothesis

Med Hypotheses. 2019 Apr;125:110-118. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2019.02.042. Epub 2019 Feb 19.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disease included within Autism Syndrome Disorder (ASD) spectrum. ASD has been linked to a series of genes that play a role in immune response function and patients with autism, commonly suffer from immune-related comorbidities. Despite the complex pathophysiology of autism, Gut-brain axis is gaining strength in the understanding of several neurological disorders. In addition, recent publications have shown the correlation between immune dysfunctions, gut microbiota and brain with the behavioral alterations and comorbid symptoms found in autism. Gut-brain axis acts as the "second brain", in a communication network established between neural, endocrine and the immunological systems. On the other hand, Hygiene Hypothesis suggests that the increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in the modern world can be attributed to the decrease of exposure to infectious agents, as parasitic nematodes. Helminths induce modulatory and protective effects against several inflammatory disorders, maintaining gastrointestinal homeostasis and modulating brain functions. Helminthic therapy has been previously performed in diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and food allergies. Considering gut-brain axis, Hygiene Hypothesis, and the modulatory effects of helminths I hypothesized that a treatment with Trichuris suis soluble products represents a feasible holistic treatment for autism, and the key for the development of novel treatments. Preclinical studies are required to test this hypothesis.

Keywords: ASD; Autism; Gut-brain axis; Helminths; Immunomodulation; Microbiome; Treatment; Trichuris suis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy
  • Brain
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Models, Biological
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Th1 Cells / cytology
  • Th2 Cells / cytology
  • Therapy with Helminths / methods*
  • Trichuris