I can't think of anything less appetizing than a drink filled with thousands of worm eggs -- but if it meant beating a serious and life-wrecking disease with limited options, I'd swallow it all without thinking twice.
I know -- as far as the gross-o-meter goes, this one is off the charts... but a series of new studies finds that stomach worms can actually help defeat multiple sclerosis.
In one small study, four of the five MS patients who drank a solution of 2,500 pig whipworm eggs every two weeks for three months had fewer of the brain lesions that mark the condition.
In an upcoming study, 70 patients will let researchers infect them with hookworms. Instead of drinking eggs, these worms will burrow into the shoulder and wriggle their way to the stomach.
Both lines of research are promising, but there's at least one big difference between the two: Your body will take care of whipworms on its own, but you'll need de-worming tablets to flush out the hookworms.
So, of the two, it would seem as if the worm juice might be the better option -- but I'm sure most MS patients would eat a plate live earthworms if it meant a cure for the disease.
I don't think a trip to your doctor's office will ever resemble an episode of "Fear Factor," but stomach worms might be part of the mainstream care for this disease soon enough -- because if earlier studies are any indication, the research under way now should get some serious results.
In one study out of Argentina just a few years ago, researchers compared 12 MS patients who suffered a parasite infection to 12 with no worms. Those with the worms had just three relapses over an average follow-up of 4.6 years
versus 56 among those without the parasites.
The worm patients also had less disability, fewer brain lesions as revealed on MRI scans, and measurable beneficial changes in the blood.
MS isn't the only autoimmune disorder that you can worm your way out of. Other studies have shown that the creepy-crawlies can help fight Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome along with asthma and even some allergies.
These are all tough-to-beat conditions... yet some of the simplest creatures on the planet may be able to stop them cold.
That's humbling... and yes, a little bit gross.