New research and experiments indicate that deliberately ingesting certain types of parasitic worms may be the cure for colitis, hay fever, asthma and a host of other auto-immune diseases. Gross!!! But seriously, the theory is that since humans co-evolved with gut-worms they may in fact be necessary to our health. This is an interesting idea actually — there are number of “bad” micro-organisms that modern medicine has eliminated — but what if some of them are actually necessary for our health because we’ve evolved alongside them for so long that they are part of how we work? This is not so suprising. Human organisms are assemblages of many complex sub-systems some of which are unique organisms in their own right — we are superorganisms — for example, we cannot digest our food effectively without the help of e-coli bacteria and the mitochondira in our own cells seem to contain their own unique DNA. Gut-worms, disgusting as they may be, could be in fact good for our health. This reminds me of something that several hard-core backpackers in Asia told me when I was in the far reaches of India and Nepal: it turns out some of them found out that having a tapeworm prevented them from getting amoebas and other parasites because the tapeworm ate the other baddies they ingested. Tapeworms are pretty good parasites — that is they can reside in a host for a long time without killing them, although their are certain risks from long-term tape-worm infections (such as brain, eye and other tissue diseases). This makes me think about the potential for a future medical advance: bioengineered parasites. Suppose we could evolve or build a form of gut-worm that could not reproduce. You could ingest the eggs and they would hatch in the intestinal tract and the resulting worms would live for a week or two. Then they would die without reproducing first. It would be sort of like taking a course of antibiotics, only a lot grosser!