Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine due to an abnormal immune response to gluten, which is most often found in wheat, rye and oats. Celiac Disease affects 1 percent of the population (about 1 in 135 people) and is currently on the rise. Children and adults suffering from Celiac Disease experience intestinal discomfort such as gas, bloating, vomiting and constipation as a result of eating gluten.
The most commonly used method to treat Celiac Disease safely and effectively is the total elimination of gluten from the diet.
Celiac Disease can affect anyone regardless of age, race or gender; however, it affects children, Caucasians and people of European descent more than others. And Celiac Disease is genetically based, so if you have a close relative who suffers from Celiac Disease, such as a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you are also at risk for developing the condition. But the question remains: even though you may be at risk or even suffering from symptoms, which tests can determine whether or not you in fact suffer from Celiac Disease?
Diagnosing Celiac Disease
Generally, diagnosing Celiac Disease can be a long, arduous and invasive process. Typically, doctors direct patients to continue eating a diet rich in gluten or, if they have eliminated gluten, to reintroduce it into the diet for four to six weeks before submitting to a blood test.
People who suffer from Celiac Disease have higher concentrations of an antibody, anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGA) or anti-endomysium antibodies (EMA) in their blood. Blood tests for Celiac Disease look for the presence of tTGA or EMA. However, if gluten is eliminated from the diet, the blood test may be negative for Celiac Disease even if the disorder is actually present.
If the blood test is positive and coupled with symptoms consistent with Celiac Disease, a biopsy of the small intestine is performed in order to confirm the diagnosis.
For most people, the idea of voluntarily submitting to four to six weeks of intestinal distress in order to take a blood test that may then require them to submit to a biopsy of their intestinal tract is less than desirable. Thankfully, a new blood test has undergone research and promises to reduce the re-introduction of a gluten rich diet to three days rather than six weeks and eliminates the need for an additional small intestine biopsy.
The head of Celiac Research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia, Jason Tye-Din, M.D., and his team have reduced the entire diagnostic process to five days, which includes a testing time of four days with the results returned in about 24 hours. Using their new test, researchers were able to diagnose those with Celiac Disease with 85 to 94 percent specificity and those without the disease with 100 percent specificity.
ImmusanT, a biotechnology company, is developing the test for future use. The company’s mission is to develop treatment and diagnostic tools to help manage patients who suffer from Celiac Disease.
Presently, the only widely available method to accurately diagnose Celiac Disease is a blood test taken after six weeks of ingesting gluten, followed by an invasive intestinal biopsy.
Although this new test is promising, it is unlikely you will see it in your doctor’s office until more studies and regulatory approval are completed.