updated 6/11/2006 3:48:05 PM ET 2006-06-11T19:48:05

New research may lead to an effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.

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That’s the good news. The bad news is that it involves swallowing worm eggs.

Researchers are looking at the use of threadlike intestinal parasites called whipworms to treat the disease, which can cause diarrhea, painful cramps and intestinal bleeding.

Inflammatory bowel disease is virtually unknown in the developing world, but it’s becoming increasingly common in industrialized countries. Possible explanations range from refined foods and high-fat diets — to too much good hygiene.

That’s where the worm eggs come in.

Michigan State University professor Linda Mansfield says some exposure to dirt, bacteria and, yes, worms can be beneficial.

She tells the Lansing State Journal that swallowing whipworm eggs could help counteract bowel inflammation and “reset the immune system to be in better balance.”

More testing is needed for government approval.

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