Aug 19, 2010

An update on hookworms

If you heard our Parasites show, then you've heard the story of how one man--Jasper Lawrence--turned his passion for hookworms into a business (Jasper deliberately infected himself with hookworms to combat allergies and asthma: listen to the full story here, or you can catch it on This American Life this weekend).

Pat Walters, who first introduced us to Jasper, wondered how the modern-day entrepreneur was faring—were orders flying in? Did people really want to buy hookworms? So he called Jasper up…and discovered he had big news: he’d had a visit from the FDA. Jasper says he wasn’t surprised:


But as the man left, he said he’d be back in a few days to do an inspection. And, according to Jasper, something changed between that first visit and the following inspection:


Jasper was scared. And he didn’t want to stop selling hookworms. So he and his wife Michelle made a decision:


That was January. Jasper and Michelle now live in the tropics—and they’re rebuilding their lab. Despite everything, Jasper still believes he can help people. Pat asked him, what would it take to make him stop?


So Jasper has moved on—to an undisclosed location. That was in January. And last we heard, he's not shipping to the US.

PS: When we spoke with the FDA, they wouldn't go on record as confirming or denying Jasper's accounts. And, of course, using hookworms is an experimental treatment and we here at Radiolab do not endorse it.

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