It appears to be a “fighting fire with fire” approach to this latest foray into the treatment of people with celiac disease.
According to The Daily Mail website, the vaccine named NexVax2 works by “‘reprogramming’ the body’s immune system so it doesn’t attack the gut in response to gluten in the diet”. US Researchers from the firm called Immusant, Inc. are now taking the vaccine into human trials in New Zealand and Australia to see if this approach will work. This is a significant step toward finding a way to treat, manage or (some may think) “cure” celiac. Of course right now they only treatment for celiac disease is complete elimination of gluten in the diet.
But will it work? The vaccine (administered as a shot) apparently uses tiny “fragments” of proteins responsible for causing an immune response in celiacs (I would take this to mean protein found in gluten — but the article never actually says that), and emits them into the body. The article says because the fragments are initially so small, they don’t trigger an immune attack on the body. With each shot, the person is receiving more of the protein. According to the article, “This allows the immune system to slowly get used to higher levels of gluten entering the body”, basically preparing the body for consuming gluten in food so it doesn’t prompt an autoimmune response and people can return to a normal diet.
The article doesn’t talk about whether you would need the vaccine/shots for life or only for a series. If everything goes as researchers hope, the vaccine would be ready in 3-4 years.
Now my take? For the last 12 years it has been pounded into my brain that even the smallest bit of gluten can cause damage to a person’s gut. How is starting with a low amount of gluten and increasing it going to make a body which hates gluten– suddenly be okay with it??
It makes me nervous to be honest. If you want more information on this vaccine and the companies involved, read this Celiac.com article from last spring.
There are several other celiac drugs being researched at this time, for more information on that, click here. In The Pharma Letter from 2011, Datamonitor estimated that if all goes well, the drug sales in this market alone from all of these drug/treatment options could reach $8 BILLION by 2019.
What do you think?