Are you gluten-free? A ‘promising’ new vaccine could let you eat what you want

Gluten-free baking can be a surprising treat

Shantelle Eaton, a bakery decorator at Amaru Confections in Boise explains what it means to be gluten free and how any difference in taste might be a delightful surprise.
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Shantelle Eaton, a bakery decorator at Amaru Confections in Boise explains what it means to be gluten free and how any difference in taste might be a delightful surprise.

Bring on the bread and pass the pasta — because if you’re gluten-free, there might soon be a way for you chow down on whichever foods you’d like, gluten or not.

A landmark vaccine for celiac desease, called Nexvax2, has moved into its second phase of human clinical trials, according to a news release from the vaccine’s manufacturer, ImmusanT.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can damage the walls of the small intestine when people eat gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. It can damage the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients and can lead to major health problems, including the development of other diseases like cancer or diabetes, according to the foundation.

There is no treatment other than cutting out gluten from the foods you eat. Gluten is collection of proteins found in many grains in the Western diet, including in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, according to an article published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Some have also opted to cut out gluten for other health reasons, even if they do not have a celiac disease diagnosis, although some medical professionals have warned against this, the British Medical Journal reported.

But the new vaccine could bring relief to a large swath of celiac disease sufferers, about 90 percent of whom have the variant of the disease the vaccine aims to treat, according to the company.

The treatment takes time to build up, and repeated vaccinations would slowly give the body an immunity to the damaging effects of gluten.

“The drug triggers the death of the cells that cause the damaging immune response. By doing that you switch the immune reaction from a damaging one to a tolerant one,” immunologist Bob Anderson said early in the drug’s development, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A main feature, at least in early stages, would be preventing people from getting sick if they accidentally ate gluten.

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

Beyond Celiac, an advocacy group for those with the disease, called the vaccine “promising,” in a blog post.

“In celiac disease, the vaccines being developed target the immune response triggered by gluten. Therapeutic vaccines aim to reprogram the immune system to learn not to react,” the group wrote.

The company plans to enroll 150 patients across the U.S., New Zealand and Australia soon, according to the news release.

“I’m all for a vaccine,” said Sarah Oliha, who has celiac diesase, according to KARE. “Bcause then I could eat my pasta, my rice and pizza.”

Wheat has been used for thousands of years as the foundation of our diet. But many Americans have a condition called celiac disease, which is an intolerance to wheat, barley and rye. Its symptoms can be subtle, but if you don't stick to a gluten-f