The vaccine against celiac disease in clinical trials would allow people to eat gluten again

For years, people with celiac disease have lived with the awareness that there is no cure for this autoimmune condition, and the only treatment is a strictly gluten-free diet. Now, there is a good reason for people with celiac disease to hope for both a cure is the ability to eat gluten safely again.

ImmusanT, the producers of Nexvax2, announced that it has initiated the phase two clinical trial for the vaccine, designed to protect people with celiac disease from inadvertent exposure to gluten, and ultimately "allow patients to return to a diet without restrictions "The Managing Director of ImmusanT Leslie Williams stated in a version that talks about clinical trials.

Here's what you need to know:

The first patient in the study received a dose of the vaccine in September. Doctors hope to find a total of 150 participants from the United States, Australia and New Zealand to test Nexvax2.

photo of the vaccine
Getty Images | David Greedy

Celiac disease is an autoimmune genetic disease. If a celiac accidentally eats wheat, rye or barley, or foods made from those grains, like soy sauce or beer, their immune system jumps into overdrive, causing an attack on the villi of the small intestine.

Even traces of gluten can cause the immune response and the consequent damage to the villi. For those suffering from celiac disease, this can lead to a number of other health problems, including malnutrition (the damaged villi can not absorb nutrients), infertility, anemia, osteoporosis , diabetes and even some types of cancer.

Nexvax2 was designed specifically for celiac patients who have the genetic form HLA-DQ2.5 of the disease, which represents 90% of celiac people, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

How the celiac vaccine works

The vaccine is not quite like what your kids can get for chickenpox, which is designed to prevent them from ever having the disease. Nexvax2 is a "therapeutic" vaccine, which means it is designed to address an immune response that is already happening in the bodies of celiac people, explains Beyond Celiac.

The vaccine is given slowly, in doses, as "reprograms T cells responsible for celiac disease to stop the activation of a pro-inflammatory response," according to the statement. In the study, doctors will treat patients over the course of 16 weeks, gradually increasing the body's ability to manage gluten proteins in the intestine without the harmful immune response.

photo of pasta
Getty Images | Roberto Serra / Iguana Press

Researchers and health professionals believe that about 1 percent of the world's population is affected by celiac disease, although many believe it is under-diagnosed. Organizations like Beyond Celiac encourage people to look for a diagnosis, which can be done through a blood test.

The organization also encourages patients to differentiate a celiac diagnosis from a wheat allergy or other problems, as patients with celiac disease face serious health problems and are required to adhere to a strictly gluten-free diet .

Although this vaccine is exciting for celiac sufferers, researchers are testing different therapies right now. The Celiac Disease Foundation maintains a list of evidence on its Future Therapies page, as well as Beyond Celiac. The foundation also has a portal to sign up for a research log, so you can help scientists do their job. For more information on the Nexvax2 clinical trial, go to clinicaltrials.gov and search using the number NCT03644069.

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