Two recent papers published by members of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) have questioned our traditional perception of intestinal parasites.

The first, published July 14, 2014 in Trends in Parasitology is a systematic review of cases where humans have deliberately ingested parasites for research and suggests that certain parasites could have beneficial effects on conditions like Crohn’s disease. The lead author himself ingested a large species of tapeworm and says he feels “fine.”

The second paper, published June 19, 2014 in Frontiers in Microbiology looks at non-bacterial microbes in the human gut. Among other things, it finds that people with moderns, westernized lifestyles show less diversity in these microorganisms than people who live traditional, agrarian lifestyles.

The two authors are beginning a collaboration to investigate the use of controlled parasite infections as treatment for inflammatory bowel disorders.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

Julius Lukeš, Senior Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, University of South Bohemia, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic

Laura Wegener Parfrey, Associate, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, University of British Columbia, British Columbia