Celiac disease sufferers may soon be able to safely eat gluten, thanks to a new vaccine currently undergoing testing worldwide.
The vaccine, called Nexvax2, targets the immune system to stop the inflammation that typically occurs when people with celiac disease consume gluten. It was first tested in 2011, for the initial trial phase, and was found to be safe.
The company that produces Nexvax2, the Massachusetts-based ImmusanT, received $40 million in funding in 2017, allowing them to continue researching the vaccine. The second round of testing will start in Melbourne, before going out to other cities in Australia. ImmusanT hopes to enroll 150 patients from the United States, Australia and New Zealand in the trial.
“The vaccine is designed to target the 90 percent of celiac disease patients with the HLA-DQ2 genetic form of disease,” Dr. Jason Tye-Din, the head of celiac research and gastroenterologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where the trial will start, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “A successful therapy that can restore normal gluten tolerance would revolutionize celiac disease management.”
Currently, there is no treatment for celiac disease — the only option is to cut out gluten entirely. While going gluten-free became trendy among health-conscious people in the last decade, for celiac disease sufferers the protein poses a severe risk to their small intestine, and causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Nexvax2 won’t immediately enable people with celiac to eat gluten again — rather, the vaccine will slowly build up an immunity to the proteins in gluten and end the negative side effects.
“Through this study we anticipate making new insights that will further our ability to demonstrate specific suppression of the immune response to gluten epitopes and associated effects of celiac disease,”Dr. Ken Truitt, ImmusanT chief medical officer, told BeyondCeliac.org.
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