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  • Jefferson Adams

    Could Enzymes from Oral Bacteria Treat Celiac Disease?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Do Enzymes from our mouths offer the best next treatment celiac disease?


    Photo: CC--Fredrik Rubensson
    Caption: Photo: CC--Fredrik Rubensson

    Celiac.com 10/21/2016 - Researchers at Boston University's Henry M. Golden School of Dental Medicine have identified a metabolic enzyme that alerts the body to invading bacteria, which may lead to new treatments for celiac disease.

    A research team that set out to isolate and identify the enzymes and evaluate their potential as novel enzyme therapeutics for celiac disease, reports that the enzymes exhibit exceptionally high gluten-degrading enzyme activities, and are "naturally associated with bacteria that colonize the oral cavity."



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    Rothia bacteria, found in human saliva, can break down gluten compounds that cause an exaggerated immune response and that are typically resistant to the digestive enzymes that mammals produce. The team was able to isolate a new class of gluten-degrading enzymes from Rothia mucilaginosa, an oral microbial colonizer. The Rothia enzymes in question belong to the same class as food-grade Bacillus enzymes. The researchers noted that "B. subtilis is food safe and has been consumed for decades, e.g. in a product called natto, a Japanese fermented soy bean dish."

    B. subtilis and its products have been safely consumed by humans for many hundreds of years, with very few problems reported. They add that the "…food-grade status of B. subtilis, and the already widely consumed natto products, open new avenues for potential therapeutic applications of the subtilisin enzymes."

    The Rothia subtilisins and two subtilisins from Bacillus licheniformis, subtilisin A and the food-grade Nattokinase, efficiently degraded the immunogenic gliadin-derived 33-mer peptide and the immunodominant epitopes recognized by the R5 and G12 antibodies. This study identified as promising new candidates for enzyme therapeutics in celiac disease.

    Based on these results, the research team concludes that gluten-degrading Rothia and food-grade Bacillus subtilisins are the "preferred therapy of choice for celiac disease," and that their exceptional enzymatic activity, along with their connection to natural human microbial colonizers, make them "worthy of further exploration for clinical applications in celiac disease and potentially other gluten-intolerance disorders."

    Their study appears in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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