Germany Considers Sale of Parasitic Worm Eggs ... as Food

Thousands of people around the world already take them
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2017 3:00 PM CDT
Germany Considers Sale of Parasitic Worm Eggs ... as Food
In an opposite campaign, an Indian schoolgirl holds up a deworming tablet distributed at a government school in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, as part of a massive deworming campaign to prevent parasitic worms from infecting their bodies and impairing their mental and physical development.   (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

(Newser) – Let's get one thing straight: Parasitic worms can and do cause serious problems in the animals they infect, and it's largely seen as a good thing that most humans in wealthier nations don't have to deal with them. Hookworms, for instance, cause anemia, diarrhea, and pain, while the human whipworm causes severe iron deficiency and slowed growth in kids, reports Live Science. But pig whipworm eggs sold by Thai company Tanawisa are now being touted as a health remedy for anything from autoimmune diseases like Crohn's to mental health issues, per New Scientist. Germany is even considering approving them as a food ingredient, a potential first in Europe.

The idea is that not all parasitic worms are necessarily bad, and they may even secrete substances that calm our immune systems. But research has failed to show positive effects, and experts like Dr. Peter Hotez at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College dismiss the idea as the same kind of "pseudoscience cult therapies as chelation therapy for autism." Others counter that the eggs are probably "no worse than many other dietary supplements that many people use regularly." The product is being considered in Germany as a food ingredient, not medicine, and thus must only be shown to be safe rather than also shown to be effective. It would be sold in vials with up to 2,500 eggs, to be added to foods and drinks; reassuringly, pig whipworms cannot survive long or reproduce in humans. (A roundworm appears to boost fertility in women in Bolivia.)

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