Certain symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, could be eased by a molecule found in parasitic worms, Science Daily reports. The study – from the Monash University and published in the FASEB Journal – found that specific peptides found in parasitic worms could suppress the body´s immune system, thus offering relief to sufferers of autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases occur when a person´s immune system has an irregular response against its own cells, organs or tissues. Professor Ray Norton, lead researcher on the study, noted that the scientific world is yet to fully understand how or why autoimmune diseases occur, but this latest finding could prove to be a vital step toward addressing the symptomatic issues that occur from them.
Cases of autoimmune diseases have been increasing on a global scale, possibly due to increased cleanliness in the western world which has led to the population being less exposed to various infections. Norton noted that in countries with higher rates of worm infection also record lower rates of autoimmune diseases.
Research in this area tends to look at what happens when an individual infects themselves with parasitic worms in a bid to put their autoimmune system into remission. The worms have a supposedly “calming effect” on the immune system of an individual, thus reducing the symptoms of autoimmune disease.
In the study, the scientists opted to use the active components responsible for the immunomodulatory effects of parasitic worms – taken from the secretory glands of the creatures. The AcK1 peptide that was identified inhibits a potassium channel and thus dampens the immune system of a patient.
Dr Sandeep Chhabra from the Monash University noted that the next stage of the research will be to create a pill using the same peptide to dampen the immune system in sufferers.