Jolly, 57, a human resources manager from Palmerston North, is one of an estimated 6000 to 7000 people around the planet who have chosen to treat themselves with "helminth therapy" – deliberate introduction of parasitic worms or their eggs into the body as a treatment for autoimmune diseases, allergies and an increasingly long list of other maladies.
It was 15 years ago that Jolly first went to her doctor complaining of wrist pain. She assumed it was occupational overuse syndrome but blood tests indicated she had the autoimmune disorder lupus, though at that point she had few other symptoms.
By 2008, though, the disease was starting to bite: she had dry eyes, a dry mouth, diarrhoea and muscle pains. Worst of all was the increasing chronic fatigue.
Her autoimmune diagnosis was refined. She had "undifferentiated connective tissue disease", and there was no treatment available apart from steroids, which have serious long-term side-effects.
Early on, says Jolly, she stumbled across websites where people talked about infecting themselves with parasites, but it sounded ludicrous.
What caught Jolly's eye, though, was Velasquez-Manoof's advocacy of helminth (parasitic worm) therapy. It seems these worms secrete substances that dampen the human immune response. They're doing it to protect themselves from ejection by their host, but the side effect is a muting of the inflammatory mechanisms driving these new allergies and automimmune problems in humans.
Jolly joined the Facebook groups where people discuss treatment protocols, the merits of whipworm versus hookworm, and the contacts of suppliers. Twenty months ago, she took her first dose: 25 hookworm through her skin. Five months later, before her colony was even up to full strength, her symptoms started to halt or even reversed. The dry mouth and eyes. The muscle pain. The diarrhoea. It was life-changing.Post too long. Click here to view the full text.