It has long been thought that an excessively germ-free environment could increase allergies and new research suggests parasites could actually benefit patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS).
Previous studies have shown that parasite infection can alter the course of autoimmune diseases and this research found patients with parasites were less likely to develop severe, long-term, disabilities.
The study, which was based on 12 MS patients with parasite infections, 12 MS patients without and 12 healthy individuals, was published in today's American Neurological Association journal.
The authors suggest their findings are evidence that parasite infections can result in a decrease in the normal inflammatory response associated with MS.
"Induction of a regulatory anti-inflammatory network generated by persistent parasite infections may offer a potential explanation for environment-related suppression of MS development in areas with low disease prevalence," they wrote.
Further investigation is needed to determine which molecules could dampen the inflammatory reactions of autoimmune diseases, the study concluded.