A New Vaccine Could Help Those Suffering from Celiac Disease

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

If you or anyone you know lives with celiac disease, then you know how difficult eating and cooking can be. Gluten is everywhere! It’s in your breads, cereals, pastas, cakes, cookies, pastries, beer — and it can be hard to avoid. You need to check all your food labels and, in extreme circumstances, make sure that your housemates don’t put gluten on kitchenware you regularly use.

That’s why it’s especially exciting to find out that there might be a vaccine that could effectively cure most sufferers of celiac disease. People reports that a vaccine called Nexvax2 can target the immune system to stop the inflammation that usually happens when a celiac sufferer has food with gluten in it.

“Nexvax2 is the only disease-modifying therapeutic approach for celiac disease in clinical development today that has the potential to enable patients to return to a normal diet, good health, and improved quality of life,” says ImmusanT, the maker of the vaccine, on their website. Now, this vaccine isn’t the cure, because it only targets the immune recognition gene, HLA-DQ2.5, which accounts for the condition in 80 to 90 percent of patients. Still, that’s mostly everyone, which is cause to celebrate.

The vaccine’s trials are being led by Dr. Ken Truitt, ImmusanT chief medical officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, but they’ve already received a jaw-dropping funding amount of $40 million last year, so someone really believes in them. I would too, since there currently is no treatment for celiac disease at all, meaning the grocery store bread aisle is currently a nightmare for 1% of Americans.

This vaccine won’t immediately allow celiac sufferers to dig in to a loaf of bread right away. Rather, the vaccine tricks the body over time to accept gluten into a celiac’s body. Then, and only then, like Oprah, they too could LOVE bread.

“As a result, by preventing T-cells from continuing to cause inflammation in the small intestine, the injured tissue heals and patients would be able to resume an unrestricted diet and enjoy improved health,” ImmusanT continues, “Booster shots of Nexvax2 would offer periodic reinforcements of the treatment to establish a prolonged tolerance to gluten.”