Sepsis – could helminths be the answer?

John Scott recently send us three links to recent articles and research reports with the following brief comments:

According to the Julie Mellor, the Health Service Ombudsman (as quoted by the BBC) 'around 37,000 people are estimated to die of sepsis each year, accounting for 100,000 hospital admissions.' She goes on:
'Diagnosing and treatment of sepsis presented some real problems because the condition is hard to spot and treat. The most common causes of severe sepsis are pneumonia, bowel perforation, urinary infection, and severe skin infections. In the cases in our report, sadly, all patients died. In some of these cases, with better care and treatment, they may have survived.'

He (John) then pointed us to another article from the International Anaesthesia Research Society suggesting that sepsis is an increasing cause of complications and death among women in the West. The rates of severe and fatal sepsis during labor and delivery are rising sharply, such that sepsis is now the leading cause of direct maternal death in the United Kingdom.

And then he goes on to point us to some research carried out by the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology at the University Hospital in Bonn looking at the use of helminths in modulating the immune system.

They postulate that:
'As with allergy, epidemiological studies have observed a steady rise in severe sepsis cases and although this may have resulted from several factors (immunosuppressive drugs, chemotherapy, transplantation, increased awareness and increased surgical procedures), it is tempting to hypothesize that the lack of helminth infections in Western countries may have contributed to this phenomenon'. They go on to suggest that 'in addition to suppressing autoimmunity, recent evidence indicates that concurrent helminth infections also counterbalance exacerbated pro-inflammatory immune responses that occur during sepsis, improving survival.'

Is it therefore, John asks, time to consider helminth deficiency as a possible risk for sepsis? And if so, could lives be saved by re-worming pregnant women?


September 2013


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