How Does the Experimental ‘Vaccine’ for Celiac Disease Work?

Nov 9, 2018

By Rachael Rettner

An experimental “vaccine” for celiac disease is set to be tested in a new clinical trial to see if the treatment can protect patients with the condition from the effects of eating gluten — or, in other words, allow those patients to eat gluten safely.

The treatment, called Nexvax2 and made by the biotech company ImmusanT Inc., is a type of immunotherapy that aims to “reprogram” the immune system to be tolerant of gluten, the researchers said.

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. The condition affects about 1 out of every 100 people in the United States.

Currently, the only way to manage celiac disease is for patients to avoid foods containing gluten for the rest of their lives. But even with the rise in popularity of gluten-free foods, such diets can still be difficult to follow, and patients may be inadvertently exposed to the protein. “Even the most diligent patients can suffer the adverse effects of accidental exposure,” study researcher Jason Tye-Din, head of celiac research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, said in an Oct. 30 statement.

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