Would You Eat Parasitic Worm Eggs? Why One Company Wants to Sell Them As Food
A human whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) egg. A company in Germany wants to sell the eggs of a related parasite, the pig whipworm (Trichuris suis).
Credit: CDC

The German government is considering approval of a food ingredient that most people try their best to avoid: parasite eggs.

The country's Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety is evaluating the safety of a product that consists of pig whipworm (Trichuris suis) eggs, New Scientist reported Aug. 7. If approved, the eggs would be sold as a food ingredient.

The product, made by a Thai company called Tanawisa, would be sold in small vials containing up to 2,500 eggs, which could be added to foods or drinks. It was approved for sale in 2012 in Thailand.

The company argues that parasite infections may have some health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease. Tanawisa selected the pig whipworm for its product because the parasite cannot survive and reproduce in humans. (The human whipworm, called Trichuris trichiura, on the other hand, is responsible for more than 600 million infections worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can cause symptoms including severe iron deficiency and slowed growth in children.)

Some experts have dismissed the idea that self-infecting with a parasite is a good idea.

For example, in 2013, the pharmaceutical company Coronado Biosciences (now called Fortress Biotech) announced that its clinical trial using pig whipworm eggs to treat Crohn's disease had failed, according to The Boston Globe.

"In my opinion, worm therapies belong in the same category of pseudoscience cult therapies as chelation therapy for autism," and approving this product in Germany would be a "dumb idea," Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told New Scientist. (Chelation therapy is a controversial technique in which harmful heavy metals are removed from a person's blood.)

Read more at New Scientist

Originally published on Live Science.