Can Parasites Help Prevent Aging?

Parasitic worms may hold the key to living longer and warding off chronic disease, according to a review article published four days ago in the open access journal eLife. The review looks at a growing body of evidence suggesting that losing our ‘old friends’ worm parasites, accustomed to living relatively harmlessly in our bodies, can lead to age-related inflammation. If this situation is carefully controlled; It raises the possibility that curative worm treatments could prevent aging and protect against diseases such as heart disease and dementia.

Bruce Zhang, a university student at the Institute for Healthy Aging at the University of College London and author of the study, explains: “Reduced exposure to commensal microbes and intestinal worms in developed countries has been linked to increased levels of allergic and autoimmune inflammatory disorders. Another possibility is the loss of microbes and worms, our ‘old friend’; It increases the sterile inflammation associated with aging, known as inflammatory aging.” Inflammatory aging is increasingly thought to be a contributing factor to major diseases later in life. These include heart disease, dementia, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, age-related eye disease, and (recently) severe manifestations during SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infections.

One of the theories put forward is that the gut microbiome may contribute to inflammatory aging. But until now, the role of the organisms that make up the macrobiome (the ecosystem of macro-organisms) has not been given much consideration; these include worms such as liver flukes, tapeworms, and roundworms. Wolves have infected humans throughout our evolutionary history and as a result have become adept at manipulating our immune response. In turn, humans have evolved varying levels of tolerance for the presence of wolves.


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