Autism and allergies dramatically improved by pig whip worm

Stewart Johnson, the father of a 16- year-old autistic boy, along with Dr Eric Hollander, Director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has pioneered an extraordinary new ‘worm’ therapy which has not only had a dramatic effect on his son, Lawrence’s autism but on his life- threatening allergies.

Lawrence was born in 1990 and diagnosed with autism in 1992. His childhood behaviour was typical of an autistic child and although he was able to acquire language (he could read, write, and was verbal) he had a very low frustration tolerance and developed self-abusive behaviour which became worse as he got older. Lawrence had undergone most therapies available but none had any significant effect. However, his parents and doctors had noticed that his behaviour always improved significantly when he had a fever and got much worse if his seasonal allergies were active.

The chigger effect
The breakthrough came when he was at a sleepaway camp and got badly bitten (the bites entirely covered both legs) by chiggers or harvest mites.

From being very disruptive, hitting himself, throwing his food, not being able to participate, etc he suddenly become totally calm, fully participating in every event and activity. A week later when he returned from camp he was still calm, focused, behaviourally flexible, and with virtually no symptoms. Discovering the bites covering his son’s legs, Stewart wondered if there could be a connection.

An internet search revealed that the chiggers attach to the skin and suck dissolved tissues to obtain nutrition. The residual hardened cone of tissue that is left after the chigger falls off causes an extremely powerful immune response in humans. This immune response causes itching and discomfort and lasts about two weeks, when the bites finally fade. With Lawrence, the complete elimination of symptoms lasted for another week, then, as the bites faded, the symptoms returned.

Combined with the earlier observations that his behaviour improved when he had a fever and got worse when his allergies were active this seemed to suggest that when his immune system had something ‘legitimate’ to do, the symptoms would subside. And this in turn suggested that maybe certain symptoms of autism, including agitation, anxiety and self-abusive behaviour, are the result of an aberrant immune response and that down-regulating the immune response might decrease or eliminate these symptoms.

The hygiene hypothesis
Further research led Stewart to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ which states that asthma and potentially other autoimmune disorders are associated with increased levels of hygiene.

A group of medical researchers in Iowa refined this hypothesis by carefully examining the epidemiological data. Their conclusion was that the dramatic increase in autoimmune disorders over the past several decades was the result of the almost complete elimination of helminths (worms) from the human gut in most developed countries.
Several clinical trials for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease that involved introducing helminths in the form of pig whipworms (Trichuris suis ova, or TSO) to patients with these diseases showed very dramatic results. The mechanism of action of TSO was thought to be down-regulation of the human immune response – exactly the mechanism that Stewart was seeking. He prepared a research paper on the potential use of TSO for certain symptoms of autism and presented it to Dr Hollander in 2005, suggesting that they obtained TSO and try it on his son.

The treatment
The first trial was 1000 ova every three weeks for 26 weeks; during that time the only change observed was complete elimination of symptoms for a total of four non-contiguous days.

The second trial was 2500 ova bi-weekly. After eight weeks on this higher dose Lawrences’ behaviour began to improve dramatically; by week 10 all symptoms had completely disappeared. The dosage has continued at this level for 15 months and there has been no recurrence of the symptoms during this period.

The change in Lawrence has been beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. After being a virtual prisoner of his agitation and anxiety for most of his life, he is able to go out in the community every day without incident. Previously unable to deviate from routine in the slightest, he is now able to act spontaneously and accept major unplanned changes in schedule without any problem. Gone is the repeated face smashing and hand biting; gone are the meaningless daily rituals (lining up the shampoo bottles, opening and closing drawers repeatedly, etc). Rather than becoming frustrated and agitated over any ‘mistake’, no matter how small, he simply tries again until he gets it right, and willingly accepts correction and encouragement. Regardless of what caused it, the result has been nothing short of a miracle for the whole family.

Many people taking TSO for Crohn’s disease reported losing all their allergies while taking the medication. Lawrence had had seasonal allergies and a life-threatening tree-nut allergy all his life. He had carried an Epi-pen since he was four years old and the few times he came into contact with nuts, even just touching them, the reaction had been swift and life threatening.

Several months into the TSO therapy, Lawrence accidentally ate a pecan cookie. Pecans were the nuts to which he was most allergic. He had absolutely no reaction of any kind. He has also had no seasonal allergies since he started TSO, something he was always plagued with in previous years. Evidently, the TSO therapy has eliminated his allergies, consistent with the accounts of the Crohn’s patients.

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First Published in May 2009

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