Celiac disease due to Gluten Intolerance: Symptoms and Treatment for the Disorder

Desiree Burns
November 10, 2018

Celiac disease is a condition in which people's immune systems react abnormally to gluten - a protein found in wheat, rye and barley - and this reaction damages the lining of the small intestine. A vaccine that prevents the immune system from recognizing the protein in gluten as a threat has entered the second phase of clinical trial.

Besides damage to the intestines, the immune response also blocks nutrients from being absorbed properly in the body.

There are many symptoms but the most common are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain and chronic fatigue.

In an earlier trial of Nexvax2 in a small group of people, researchers showed that the vaccine was safe and well-tolerated among patients with celiac disease. The disorder is so severe that even trace amounts of wheat or rye can trigger an immune response.

Here are five questions about celiac disease answered by Dr. Johanna Kreafle, an emergency medicine physician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

There is a difference between celiac disease (CD) and gluten intolerance. Things get even more complicated if you add gluten allergies in the mix, which is another distinct condition related to gluten. If the blood tests suggest celiac disease, your physician will recommend a biopsy of your small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.

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The treatment takes time to build up, and repeated vaccinations would slowly give the body an immunity to the damaging effects of gluten. A strict gluten-free diet should be followed by those patients.

"Ninety percent of the people who have true celiac disease should benefit from this medication", says Appleyard.

The vaccine, according to ImmusanT, reprograms the T-cells so that it no longer responds to gluten peptides.

A year later, the first patient participating in a clinic trial received the vaccine and showed signs of progress.

The Phase 2 trial will involve patients confirmed to have celiac disease in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. If all goes well, the therapy can enter phase III, where researchers need to demonstrate that vaccine is at least as safe and effective as now available options.

Nexvax2 is now being tested in a phase 2 clinical trial in Australia that includes patients from the United States.

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