Researchers seeking Kiwis to be infected with hookworms

In a world-first, researchers are seeking a group of healthy Kiwis to volunteer to be infected with hookworms.

It's part of a clinical trial designed to explore a treatment that could be a game-changer for those living with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. 

While it may sound a bit icky, lead researcher Graham Le Gros says it's pretty simple.

"We just dab a few worms on each of your forearms, and we let the worms do their job, which is to migrate through the tissues, get to the lungs, you do a cough and then they go down," he said.  

The Malaghan Institute needs 15 healthy Wellingtonians aged between 18 and 65 to volunteer their small intestines as a temporary home to a low dose of hookworms.

"I think if you're a healthy volunteer for research you do it because you want to contribute, even if you do think 'ew'," said Health Research Council chief executive, Kath McPherson. 

The research could be a game-changer. Scientists know too many worms can be dangerous, but now it's thought humans actually have too few.

"We're seeing an amazing increase, a global epidemic of many inflammatory conditions, it can range from multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease," said Le Gros.

"Why's that happening? We don't know. One of the single most important events is that we have removed worms from our bodies."

Having the perfect number of these microscopic parasites could be the key to treating these diseases without any significant side effects.

"There's a whole black market in worms, but there's no real evidence in their use and how they should be used effectively."

You could help out and Le Gros promises you won't feel a thing.