A four-year-old boy with autism has seen great improvements with his neurobehavioral disorder after consuming tapeworms for several months, report the boy’s parents.
In a stranger-than-fiction story, the English publishing outlet the Daily Mail has reported that the boy, Milan Solanki, consumed a type of tapeworm known as a helminth to combat autism after consulting with an American physician.
Previously, the boy and his parents were told by doctors that he “would never lead a normal life,” says the Daily Mail. Yet the boy’s mother, Caroline Solanki, has witnessed a significant course reversal in her son after he began the controversial tapeworm therapy, which ostensibly replenishes the gut with healthy bacteria and staves off inflammation.
“The development and change in Milan is truly remarkable,” Solanki told the Daily Mail. “It feels that we are on the road to recovery from his neurodevelopmental disorder.”
The helminth therapy hinges on a concept known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” which stipulates that improved sanitary conditions in developed nations has led to an almost unnatural state of health that has resulted in elevated rates of allergies, asthma, autism and other disorders. Scientists who prescribe to the hygiene hypothesis believe that intestinal worms can restore the body’s natural balance of bacteria.
Solanki believes the tapeworm therapy has produced positive results. “We have got Milan’s brain and body to a better place, trying to encourage better synapses of his cells, improvement of brain function, lower inflammation, lower gut inflammation and hyperactivity,” she told the Daily Mail.
“We know Milan’s ability to lead a normal life is really dependent on us continuing our efforts to help him find a balance in his body,” she added.
The Solanki’s obtained the tapeworm larvae from Biome Restoration, a helminth supply company based in Lancashire.
Judy Chinitz, co-founder of Biome Restoration, is a believer in tapeworm therapy.
“The presence of helminths in the gut improves the quality of the microbiome. That is, when helminths are present, there are more anti-inflammatory species of bacteria in the gut, and fewer pro-inflammatory ones,” Chinitz told the Daily Mail.
But not all scientists agree that ingesting worms is a good idea.
“There is no credible scientific evidence to support the use of worm therapy in autism,” Dr. James Cusack, Director of Science at Autistica, told the Daily Mail. “Far too often desperate parents of children with autism feel forced to try so-called ‘miracle treatments’ because there are so few alternatives. Trying treatments with no scientific evidence can be exceptionally dangerous,” Cusack added.
Yet the Solanki family stands by their feel-good story. Caroline Solanki said that her son recently was accepted into a mainstream school and that many of his autism symptoms, including antisocial behavior and an inability to make eye contact with strangers, have disappeared.
If you want to stay on top of the latest news on “bugs and worms and other great stuff,” you can follow Chinitz’s blog, The Biome Buzz. A recent post found that the Mediterranean Diet, which involves a lot of olive oil, legumes, natural cereals and other heart-healthy foods, “is likely the healthiest way to eat.”
As far as tapeworms go, it’s recommended to contact your doctor before making any therapy decisions.
Related: 5 Myths About Autism You Should Know
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.