Could a nasty parasitic worm result in pregnancies?

Could a nasty parasitic worm result in pregnancies?

Scientists have found that a nasty little worm is resulting in pregnancies.

Here’s an unsettling thought: a parasitic worm may be your best hope to get pregnant.

Scientists studied 986 indigenous women in Bolivia who had a type of roundworm called Ascaris lumbricoides, and they found that being infected with the worm resulted in an extra two children, according to a BBC report.

The study, published in the journal Science, indicates that the worm may be changing the immune system of the body to make fertility more likely, a finding that could lead to the development of new drugs to enhance fertility.

The study found that 70 percent of the population of Tsimane women in Boivia had the parasitic worm infection, and they had an average of nine children. Scientists think up to a third of the population of the entire world may have such an infection.

Apparently, though, the positive effects are limited to the Ascaris lumbricoides species, as hookworms appeared to actually reduce fertility.

It’s a finding that has surprised the researchers, who didn’t expect the difference to be so significant.

“We think the effects we see are probably due to these infections altering women’s immune systems, such that they become more or less friendly towards a pregnancy, said Prof. Aaron Blackwell of the University of California Santa Barbara, as quoted in the BBC report.

Still, that doesn’t mean we should be giving infertile women parasitic worm infections just yet. Much more work will need to be done to determine the safety and efficacy of such treatments.

Prof. Allan Pacey, who is a fertility scientists at the University of Sheffield, was quoted in the BBC report as saying: “Whilst I wouldn’t want to suggest that women try and become infected with roundworms as a way of increasing their fertility, further studies of the immunology of women who do have the parasite could ultimately lead to new and novel fertility enhancing drugs.”

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