Lack of parasites, increase in diseases

(John Pekcan / Daily Titan)

(John Pekcan / Daily Titan)

The veteran “hygiene hypothesis” theory was introduced by Aravindhan Vivekanandhan, Ph.D., who shared his current fieldwork during Research Week at Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.

Vivekanandhan conducted his research at Anna University in Chennai, India.

The original “hygiene hypothesis,” brought forth by David P. Strachan in 1989, theorized that “too much good, is not good,” in terms of exposure to infectious agents.

The hypothesis states that lack of exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms and parasites while young increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system.

The original hypothesis also revealed an unexpected rise of problems involving allergies and metabolic diseases–self reactions to immune systems–due to lack of exposure to the inwfectants.

Vivekanandhan’s extension to the original hypothesis concludes that a lack of exposure to helminths—parasitic worms that are the most common infectious agents in developing countries including malaria and tuberculosis—actually increases risk and severity to allergies and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

“Some people are genetically more susceptible to certain diseases (Crohn’s), because it is found in their phenotype, but it is environmental factors that can actually trigger the disease,” Vivekanandhan said.

The extended hypothesis argues that a mass drug administration could potentially have an unexpectedly negative impact by increasing diabetes in India.

Nilay Patel, Ph.D., a biological science professor and director of the Stem Cell Research Program at CSUF, attended the lecture and was “fascinated” by the finding concluded by Vivekanandhan.

“What he’s asking is a trillion dollar question when you take into consideration the whole world,” said Patel.

Patel’s research focuses on Alzheimer’s disease.

Over the last ten years, some evidence has suggested that individuals with a low level cases of diabetes or cardiovascular disease had slightly higher risk of Alzheimer’s, according to Patel.

Patel said that this topic affects not only India but more than 50 percent of America’s population who are currently dealing with metabolic diseases.

Because medicine is improving, Patel argues that people are living longer, which increases their chances of getting diseases associated with metabolic disorders.

As diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and filariasis decrease, noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders increase according to Vivekanandhan.

Vivekanandhan suggests the most effective way to protect yourself from metabolic disorders would be to prevent the onset of diseases such as obesity and diabetes for those who are genetically predisposed to them.

The California Department of Public Health reported that 1 out of 7 Californians have diabetes, and 5 percent of those people are not yet aware they have it.

According to the department, diabetes is the leading cause in blindness, kidney failure and amputations as well as a indicative contributor to heart attacks and strokes.

Vivekanandhan hopes to continue research on the reverse effects of slight exposure to helminths parasitic worms.

He also hopes to focus on minor exposure to diabetes at a young age, similar to the exposure received in vaccinations to test whether prevention is possible.

About Crystal Chavira