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Patients suffering from debilitating autoimmune disorders can go to any length to get some respite from their illness. A drug company is confident about this and is working on a novel method of treating these diseases using the eggs of the pig parasite.

Nobody can understand the plight of patients suffering from autoimmune disease better than the patient himself. The symptoms can be pretty debilitating and the patients are always on a look-out for newer therapies that can provide them some respite for certain duration of time.

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A drug company, Coronado Biosciences Inc. from Burlington, Massachusetts is on its way to introduce a new form of treatment for autoimmune diseases which comprises of swallowing eggs of a pig parasite.

Though many people are skeptical about a broad acceptance of this form of therapy, the makers of the drug are fairly confident about its success. They believe that patients suffering from autoimmune diseases are so desperate that they would not mind swallowing the eggs.

Helminthic therapy

The basis of this form of treatment is the helminthic therapy. The eggs of this parasite, known as whipworm grow into mature worms inside the gut of the pig and multiply. The eggs are passed out in the feces of the pig. When these eggs are ingested by humans, they are destroyed within two weeks. However in this short duration, these eggs modulate the immune system of the man in such a manner that it no longer attacks its own tissues and organs, a characteristic feature of all autoimmune diseases.

Each dose of the drug, called as trichuris suis ova (TSO), consists of about 7,500 eggs of pig whipworm, culled from the feces of pigs, and suspended in a tablespoon of saline solution. The drug has to be swallowed by the patients.

Experts believe that not only is TSO a potential drug for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, it is devoid of any of the side effects of the drugs commonly used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. This is because the eggs are destroyed by the body within two weeks.

Soon to be launched a mid-stage clinical trial

The company will soon launch a mid-stage clinical trial with 220 patients of Crohn’s disease. The patients will be divided into two groups. While the first group will receive a dose of 7,500 pig whipworm eggs, the second group will receive a placebo once every two weeks for duration of 12 weeks. The company expects to get the results of the trial by the second half of next year.

German drug-making company, Dr. Falk Pharma GmbH, which is a partner of Coronado Biosciences Inc., is already conducting a mid-stage clinical trial of TSO in Europe, involving 250 people. Its results will be out by next summer. Both the companies will share their results before filing for market approval in 2016/17.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Pig parasite may help treat autoimmune disorders”’ by Toni Clarke, published in the August 30, 2012 issue of Reuters Health, accessed on September 30, 2012.
  • “Treating autoimmune diseases with eggs from a pig parasite” by Robin Wulffson, published in the August 25, 2012 issue of eMaxHealth, accessed on September 30, 2012.
  • “A pig parasite may be the next big thing in treating autoimmune disease”, by Lorrie Shaw, published in the August 30, 2012 issue of AnnArbor.com, accessed on September 30, 2012.
  • Photo courtesy of mattymatt on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/mattymatt/5188245914
  • Photo courtesy of verticalpharmacy on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/verticalpharmacy/6683519095