Hookworm larvae will be injected into coeliacs as part of a revolutionary treatment for the debilitating illness that affects one out of every 70 Australians.
James Cook University doctors John Croese and Paul Giacomin hope to find a drug derived from the parasites to treat gluten intolerance.
The larvae are put under a bandage, they burrow into the patients’ skin to make their way into their intestines.
The 40 people in the trial will then have gluten gradually reintroduce into their diet.
It follows a successful study in which patients were able to eat the equivalent of a bowl of spaghetti, a meal which would usually cause diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting.
Dr Giacomin said hookworms may secrete anti-inflammatory proteins, which could be put in a pill.
“Obviously our goal is not really to infect all of Australia or the developed world with these hookworms,” he said.
“So what we really want to do is use this money and this trial to really understand in more detail the mechanism of how the worms suppress the inflammatory response.
"[We want to] look at the different molecules, proteins and enzymes these worms are producing
"We will see if any of these molecules alone, if they're included in a pill-based medication, might be able to mimic the immunoregulatory response of the worm, and therefore be a quite marketable, good therapeutic for restoring gluten tolerance."
Participants in the new trial will have their gluten levels elevated far above those in the pilot study as they progress towards eating a normal diet.
Hookworms do not breed within the human body so there is no chance of the parasite multiplying to dangerous numbers.
Symptoms of coeliac disease vary, with the most common being gastrointestinal upsets.
Others symptoms, some more severe, may include fatigue, anaemia, unexplained weight loss or gain, bone or joint pains and swelling of the mouth or tongue.