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New Vaccine Could Help Coeliac Disease

Gluten free multi grain bread, oat, oat bran and caraway seeds

Scientists have discovered that a new vaccine may help to cure gluten intolerance in coeliac
sufferers. Presently there is no treatment for coeliac disease except, obviously for them to
eliminate gluten from their diet. This means removing wheat, barley, rye and even oats
because oats can be cross contaminated with wheat and other products in factory’s. Gluten is
a glue-like protein which is in bread, cakes, biscuits, fish fingers, sausages, stock cubes, pasta
and other grains. In Ireland, about one in 100 people suffer from the disease. Before the
person is diagnosed, gluten intolerance could have caused damage to the small intestine. The
villi which line the small intestine, help to stimulate digestion but when they are damaged and
inflamed, they are unable to absorb the food and this can cause diarrhoea and malnutrition. If
the person does not get diagnosed in time, or does not follow a gluten free diet then they are
at risk of osteoporosis, and they also have an increased risk of bowel cancer.

The vaccine is about to be tested on humans, because it has been successfully tested in the
laboratory, and this could make a huge difference to sufferers. The vaccine is called
NexVax2 and it helps to reprogram the body’s immune system so that it doesn’t attack the
stomach when gluten enters the body. The vaccine is composed of tiny proteins which
trigger the immune system’s overreaction during digestion. The immune system responds to
them in a positive way because they are so small and it realises that these proteins are not
harmful. After receiving a serious of vaccines, the quantity of protein is increased, and this
enables the immune system to adjust to the gluten at a higher level when it enters the
digestive system.

Coeliac disease is usually genetic and those at risk carry the gene, HLA- DQ2. The scientists
composed this new vaccine after they recognised which of the 3,000 protein fragments that
make up gluten, caused harm to the body. Currently trials involving over 100 people are
going ahead in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S to see if the vaccination will be able to
cure coeliac disease. A spokesman for Immusant Inc said: ‘We hope NexVax2 dramatically
reduces the body’s immune response to gluten so that patients can resume a normal diet and
return to good health.’ Sarah Sleet, chief executive of the charity Coeliac UK, which funded
some of the work on the vaccine, said: ‘The vaccine could definitely make a difference. The
company hopes to have it ready within the next three to four years, although that may be a bit
ambitious. ‘The only treatment at the moment is complete avoidance of gluten in the diet.’
However it does show that there are major scientific breakthroughs been made all the time,
and this can encourage sufferers to live in hope that someday there will be a cure for them to
be able eat gluten, without having unpleasant side effects from it.

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