Using Worms to Treat Allergies

United States

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF) received patents in the United States, Australia, and Europe for an innovative worm-derived treatment for allergies or other autoimmune diseases.  Caenorhabditis elegans is a non-parasitic soil-dwelling worm. While using worms to treat autoimmune diseases has been done before, this new technology focuses on using a mixture derived from C. elegans grown in a scientifically controlled environment. Previous therapies relied on the administration of live, and sometimes, parasitic worms.  

Caenorhabditis elegans
Caenorhabditis elegans

This innovation was developed by Dr. Edward Mitre of The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) Department of Microbiology, along with HJF co-inventors Drs. Belinda Jackson and Marina Torrero. They found treatment with this homogenate resulted in similar antibody and white-blood-cell responses as that elicited by parasitic-worm treatments.

“HJF specializes in supporting research that transitions from bench to bedside to battlefield,” said HJF President and CEO Dr. Joseph Caravalho. “Allergic and autoimmune diseases present health challenges in the U.S. military population, and this patent is the first step in developing a new therapeutic that could benefit our nation’s warfighters, and more broadly positively impact civilian health.” 

HJF and USU recently signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Elegance Biotechnologies a start-up company focused on advancing C. elegans strategies, both as a regulated therapy, and as a nutritional supplement, for autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders. The CRADA enables USU, HJF, and Elegance to collaborate and advance this therapeutic approach and both Drs. Mitre and Jackson will provide advice and input to Elegance through their role on the company’s scientific advisory board.

This technology is among more than 200 available for license from HJF. For more information, visit

Research for this technology was conducted at USU and the work resulting in the patent claims was funded by the NIH; however, the information or content and conclusions do not necessarily represent the official position or policy of, nor should any official endorsement be inferred on the part of, USU, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


About HJF
The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF) is a global nonprofit that administers more than $500 million in medical research funds annually. For more than 35 years, HJF has partnered with researchers and clinicians to provide bench to bedside to battlefield research support. More than 3,000 HJF teammates ensure HJF is a trusted and responsive partner by providing scientific, administrative, and program operations services to researchers in the military, academia, and private industry. For more information, visit