TAMPA - Nicole Stokes is about to give birth to twins. It's a miracle, she says, since she suffers from Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory intestinal problem that causes abdominal pain and other uncomfortable bowel symptoms.
"At the worst, I'm a very outgoing and social person but I was afraid to be around other people because I was embarrassed. I had to constantly find a bathroom. I lost a lot of weight."
There's no cure, she says. "No cure right now, although I know we're doing a lot of research right now to find a cure."
Some cool and unusual research is going on right in Nicole's backyard. It involves swallowing parasites.
Dr. Lon Lynn, with Clinical Research of West Florida, runs the study. "It is an intestinal parasite, but we give the parasite in the egg form, so there's nothing they'd be able to feel. It does hatch into the larvae while its in the intestines and then before it grows into a mature worm, it dies in the human intestines."
What's the theory? Once ingested, the parasite forces the body to form antibodies to fight it off. Those antibodies will, in turn, have a healing effect on the Crohn's symptoms. Dr. Lynn says, "It does seem to have an elimination of all of the symptoms in 90 percent of the cases."
How does he get patients over the gross-out factor of swallowing worms? "Basically, that it's a probiotic. Like, if you're eating yogurt, you're eating bacteria. It's a microscopic thing, so you won't see it."
Dr. Lynn says they're actively recruiting patients with Crohn's. Nicole can't enroll while pregnant, but understands the importance of this kind of research to her future and the future of others with Crohn's.
"I'm never closed minded to something that could help me and my quality of life."
For more information on the clinical trial :
1. Tampa residents can call 813-870-1292 and ask for Sarah. She is the nurse conducting the study.
2. Clearwater patients can call 727-466-0078 and ask for Cindy, the nurse conducting the study in the Clearwater office.
3. Visit the website at www.crwf.com and fill out the 'contact us' page.