May 29, 2013
Researchers are trialing a vaccine designed to allow people with coeliac disease to eat gluten.
Coeliac disease affects people whose immune system reacts abnormally to gluten.
The disease has many effects including bowel damage, chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility and depression.
These effects worsen unless patients are treated and follow a strict gluten-free diet.
A study being conducted by American company ImmusanT has produced a vaccine to restore sufferers’ tolerance to gluten.
Diagnostic and monitoring tools to improve coeliac disease management are also being developed.
Spokeswoman for ImmusanT, Pam Lord, said the vaccine – called Nexvax2 – was being trialled to determine the appropriate dose for coeliac patients.
“The trial currently underway in Australia and New Zealand is studying multiple doses of Nexvax2,” Ms Lord told InkWire.
“The current US trial is slightly different.
“It is studying a single daily dose of Nexvax2, for the purpose of determining safety and tolerability.”
Ms Lord said the goal was to eventually make Nexvax2 available to patients worldwide.
Fly-in-fly-out worker Paul Jarrett was diagnosed with coeliac disease three years ago.
Since his diagnosis, Mr Jarrett has given his diet an overhaul.
“It took a lot of research and time to get my head around which products I could eat or not,” he said.
“It’s easy at home now because the kitchen is full of gluten-free foods but it’s a lot harder at work.”
Mr Jarrett’s fly-in-fly-out work makes it hard for him to have variety in his diet while on the mines.
“I eat very basic foods when I’m working and away from home,” he said.
“It’s hard because, say, if fish is on the menu but the chefs have cooked it with flour, I can’t afford to take the risk because if a trace of flour gets on my piece of fish, I’m gone.
“I’m lucky to come home to my wife’s cooking and not have to worry about it containing traces of gluten.”
Coeliac patient Kate Coakley said gluten-free products were becoming more popular and harder to get hold of.
“It’s great to know that people are aware of coeliac disease and whether they suffer from it, but with that comes more demand for gluten-free products,” she said.
Ms Coakley said that growing demand from people who did not suffer coeliac disease was also affecting the availability of gluten-free products.
“I think there’s also a myth that gluten-free products are like weight loss products,” she said.
You can also check out Katherine’s work in the Western Independent newspaper, available from today at news stands around Curtin University.