Gluten drug could allow normal diet

A new vaccine that could be the world's first cure for coeliac disease is being tested in New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstock
A new vaccine that could be the world's first cure for coeliac disease is being tested in New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstock

A new vaccine that could be the world's first cure for coeliac disease is being tested in New Zealand.

Clinical trials are under way in Christchurch to test the jab that stops the body reacting to a protein found in most breads.

Coeliac sufferers can't eat anything that contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is in in everyday products such as pasta, biscuits, beer and sausages.

Sufferers are at increased risk of osteoporosis, infertility and bowel cancer if they do not stick to a gluten-free diet.

But the experimental United States drug, which has had one clinical trial, could enable them to enjoy a normal diet.

Coeliac New Zealand development manager Sue Clay said a vaccine would change lives.

"We're very much keeping our members in the loop. It's a very credible, well-funded study that looks promising but it is only early days and there is a long way to go yet."

The vaccine is designed to "reprogramme" the body's immune system, restoring coeliac patients' tolerance to gluten and returning the intestine to a healthy state.

Coeliac disease

* An intolerance to gluten, which is found in wheat, oats, barley and rye.
* Mostly genetic. It affects 1 per cent of New Zealanders.
* Causes inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine.

- APNZ

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