New Vaccine Could Cure Celiac Disease

Celiac sufferers may soon be able to tolerate gluten thanks to an experimental vaccine.
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New Vaccine Could Cure Celiac Disease

An experimental new vaccine that claims to build up gluten tolerance in people with celiac disease is moving into phase two trials. ImmusanT, the company that developed the vaccine, plans to enroll 150 people in the new trial this year.

Phase one trials of the Nexvax2 vaccine last year proved the safety of the drug. The new trials will look more closely into its effectiveness, specifically whether the drug will rid patients of their intolerance entirely or merely reduce symptoms. Even if the drug is not able to cure celiac disease, it may help lower the severity of sufferers' immune reactions, thus reducing dangers linked to cross-contamination.

“Inadvertent gluten exposures can cause significant and long-term negative impacts on patient health," ImmusanT’s CEO Leslie Williams said in a news release. "At ImmusanT, we are deeply committed to advancing Nexvax2 to protect celiac patients from the effects of inevitable gluten exposure.”

“If it does work it would be a game-changer for people with celiac disease,” Hennepin County Medical Center Gastrologist Dr. Jake Matlock tells WTHR.

The drug works much like viral vaccines: celiac sufferers are injected with small amounts of gluten to build up their tolerance to the protein over time. The vaccine protocol begins with a three microgram dose of gluten and gradually increase to .0009 grams.

“The drug triggers the death of the cells that cause the damaging immune response," immunologist Bob Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald. "By doing that you switch the immune reaction from a damaging one to a tolerant one."

The drug was specifically developed for celiac patients with the HLA-DQ2.5 mutation; this mutation affects 90 percent of people with celiac disease.

At a March conference, ImmusanT’s Chief Scientific Officer Robert Anderson explained that the company was also developing a vaccine for those with the HLA-DQ8 mutation, which affects about five percent of people with the disease.

At least 3 million people in the U.S. currently live with celiac disease.

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