By Henry Ehrlich
In Asthma Allergies Children: a parent’s guide, we wrote:
In a sense, allergy is a price we have paid for progress. Part of the body’s defenses, the immune system, evolved to help us fight off parasites when our ancestors had very little ability to influence either their environment or their diet. Now that we do have such power, that mechanism has gone haywire.
Vexed with the growing prevalence, not just of allergy but autoimmune disease, scientists and patients alike dream of harnessing this mechanism. We said a few paragraphs later:
The newest wrinkle is experimentation with hookworms, which are common in regions where people defecate in outdoor latrines and come into contact with their waste by walking barefoot in the designated areas. Epidemiologists have established that where hookworms are prevalent, allergies and asthma are unknown, possibly because they keep an antibody called IgE busy doing something constructive instead of attacking harmless proteins, which is the basis of allergic disease.
Dr. John Weiner, the Australian allergist who wrote a terrific post for us on the allergies encountered by American servicemen serving in Alice Springs, Australia, recently explored an experiment that tested hookworms for Celiac Disease. We are happy to welcome Dr. Weiner back by republishing this informative and (considering the subject) entertaining piece (complete with Australian spelling).