Link #10: Why Would Someone Put 50 Hookworms Inside His Skin?

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Link #10: Why Would Someone Put 50 Hookworms Inside His Skin?

Hookworms
Ancylostoma caninum, a type of hookworm, attached to the intestinal mucosa. Source:CDC’s Public Health Image Library Image #5205

To other people, biologists can seem a little crazy. After all, if you’re an individual who gets squeamish around blood, then you would find it weird that any individual would open things up in the name of science. In fact, running around the ocean trying to spot the loneliest whale in the world, 52 Hertz, may seem silly to someone who doesn’t share the passion.

However, all this would seem insignificant compared to the extreme things that some researchers can get up to. Take David Pritchard for example, a man who put 50 hookworms in his skin because he was curious.

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He Put 50 Hookworms in His Skin?

The basic reaction might be one of shock and disbelief. Right now, you’re probably thinking: “He couldn’t have put 50 hookworms in his skin, could he?” Well, he did. But he did it because he thought he could discover something that would change the lives of many people in the world today with health problems.

He ended up doing exactly that. Dr. Pritchard, a biologist specifically studying the human immune system (immunologist-biologist), conducted an experiment on himself, and it showed incredible results. Pritchard suspected that hookworms could be used to help people who are suffering from asthma and other allergy-related problems. The cause behind such problems is an overactive immune system.


Allergy, asthma patients try hookworms for cure


Why Did David Pritchard Put 50 Hookworms in His Skin?

The premise behind Pritchard’s experiment was that hookworms have the capability of subduing an overactive immune system. He first thought up the idea while on a field research trip in Papua New Guinea. He saw there that locals who had fewer hookworms in their bodies showed hints of allergies, while others (who had lots of hookworms) didn’t.

When Pritchard came back, he was stuck, because there was no way for him to decidedly prove that hookworms could help curb allergies and asthma, except through human experimentation. The authorities wouldn’t allow him to do that without solid proof.

So, he decided to put 50 hookworms on a bandage and tie the bandage to his arm. He later described how it felt. He said that when the hookworms crawled through his skin, the itch he felt was “indescribable”. Imagine 50 different creepy-crawlies going through your skin. That’s what Pritchard did, so he could help people who suffer from allergies.


What Happened After?

Dr. Pritchard’s self-experimentation proved that the procedure had merit. More importantly, he proved that the procedure is safe. In fact, he found out that he didn’t even need 50 hookworms, that using only 10 would have been good enough! But, when you’re going to give worms free access to your body, you might as well go all the way, right?

Currently, there are numerous legal and illegal clinics around the world that advertise the use of hookworms for curbing overactive immune systems. Also, other research directions have opened up too. For example, researchers all over the world are right now trying to see if other parasites can be used to counter diseases.




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Sources:

http://www.rd.com/health/healthcare/scientists-self-experiment/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/health/research/01prof.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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