Early Experience with Helminth Therapy in Autism Treatment

Gastrointestinal issues are one of the most common co-morbidities in patients who experience signs and symptoms of ASD. Treatments have included prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, cathartics, detoxifying agents, antibiotics, antifungals, human fecal materials, and others. Singly, and in combination, they have resulted in sometimes limited success and frequent relapses.

Furthermore, patients with ASD suffer a variety of allergic and autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, food sensitivities, asthma, and eczema.

Filling that therapeutic void is the coming world of helminths. It is a unique form of gastrointestinal/allergy treatment, now being popularized by a highly respected pediatrician, Dr. Sidney Baker. At The Child Development Center and other Developmental Clinics, treatment with HDC is becoming an additional strategy for patients with autism.

What is helminth therapy?
According to the NCBI, it is “The treatment of immune system diseases by deliberate infestation with helminths. This therapy is partly based on the HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS which states that the absence of parasites increases immune dysregulation because of the lack of stimulation of REGULATORY T-CELLS.”

As researched and reported early in this century in Science, “The induction of a robust anti-inflammatory regulatory network by persistent immune challenge offers a unifying explanation for the observed inverse association of many infections with allergic disorders.”

As unappealing as it may seem, the rat tapeworm, Hymenolepis diminuta cysticerci (HDC), is considered a mutualist, providing benefit to the host without causing longterm harm. Out-of-the-box thinking by a few functional medicine doctors has taken the following course:

Chronic illness is an expression of autoimmunity
Gut problems and allergy in autism are a form of chronic illness and autoimmunity
HDC interferes with autoimmunity
Provide HDC for chronic illness, including autism

The Protocol
In our practice, an email is sent with the parent order form, directions explaining how to administer and store the HDC upon arrival, as well as some background information. I send a request and a summary of the medical history. After reading all of the information provided, the parents contact Dr. Baker, and the product is sent to the home.

How to take the product?
Patients take them by swallowing the supplied liquid (the organisms are barely visible), or adding it to another drink. The Primobiotics dose is 1-60 HDCs, given every 1-4 weeks. The usual plan is to start with a dose of five HDCs – fewer in young children. It may take up to 6 weeks to see positive indicators and six months to fully determine that it hasn’t helped. When found helpful, the length of treatment has yet to be determined.

What are the costs?
The costs (directly from the company) are $100 for 1–10, and an additional $25 for each additional 10. The maximum charge is $175 for 40 HDC. Above that there is no additional increase in charge. Shipping is usually $35-65 but for Western US and Canada, it may be $80-100.

What are the downsides?
Constipation should be taken care of before initiating the use of HDCs. There may be some digestive upset with mild abdominal discomfort and some changes in bowel movements. Hyperactivity or insomnia lasting for a day or two are experienced by less than half of recipients.

If, after the first dose there are no positive or negative effects, the dose is increased as the optimal dose is established. Some individuals may show indications that a dose is ‘too much’ – with a more robust digestive discomfort or hyperactivity/insomnia than is usually felt as part of the initial response, in which case the dose is reduced to the minimal number.

What if a worm doesn’t pass?
According to Dr. Baker, a worm ‘sticking’ is a rare and benign event that can be treated with a dose or two of appropriate medicine.

Discussion
Note that HDC is not an autism ‘cure’. Rather, it can be useful as a treatment for the myriad of co-morbid conditions that can cause signs and symptoms related to ASD. Perhaps that is why Dr. Baker reports a ~50% success rate, after recommending this therapy to nearly all of his chronically ill patients. “What’s the alternative?” he would ask.

Though he eschews fearlessness about his willingness to offer advice, Dr. Baker has assumed a significant amount of responsibility in this endeavor; from cultivating the critters, to teaching others how to breed them, to sending out his own ‘farm-fresh little dudes’. He has personally answered emails, and he even called one of our parents who had concerns.

Interested practitioners are working together to educate and gather experience, in order to optimize this intervention. Specific probiotics are indicated, as well as evaluating progress, and even examining  unusual stools that document the gut ‘reset’. For many, the question will be, “What to discontinue first?”

Conclusion
Doctors who have assumed the challenge of treating patients with autism must remain open to all treatments, and recognize that it is the PATIENT who we are treating, not a specific disease. Some interventions, like GcMAF, were helpful, but are no longer available. Others, like antifungals and antioxidants, have taken time, and we’ve gotten pretty good.

Our patients have been satisfied with the service. Within a couple of months, two of five children have already shown positive responses, with improved behavior and communication. Treatment appears to be a safe, effective and reasonably priced way to assist patients with significant GI and / or allergic challenges.

Published recently in the New York Times:
Too Clean for Our Children’s Good?

For those who wish to read more and utilize another HDC source, here is BiomeRestoration.com

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One Response to “Early Experience with Helminth Therapy in Autism Treatment”

  1. Rebecca Spector says:

    Sounds interesting

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Brian D. Udell MD
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Davie
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