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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    New Gluten Detection Better, Faster than ELISA

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A new test promises faster, more reliable results.


    Caption: Photo: CC--Ted Eytan

    Celiac.com 02/26/2018 - People with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivities react adversely to gluten proteins in wheat, barley and rye. The gold standard for assessing gluten levels in foods is a test called the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, aka ELISA. Now, ELISA is, by most measures, a good test. However, it does have some drawbacks.

    ELISA tests do vary by manufacturer, and can provide inconsistent results, including false negatives, which can be harmful for people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity.

    Also, for optimal detection, each type of gluten requires a different ELISA. So, barley, wheat and rye all require separate tests.

    Researchers Kevin D. Dorfman, Scott P. White and C. Daniel Frisbie claim they have developed a gluten detector that can rapidly detect and quantify different sources of gluten with a single test.

    Their team says that their gluten assay device is based on floating gate transistor technology, and relies on tiny micro-channels for a sample to move through. Gluten in a sample will bind to one of three capture agents, which can be antibodies or a DNA-based aptamer, that specifically latch onto gluten proteins from certain sources. This binding causes a shift in the voltage read-out of the transistor which acts as a chemical fingerprint that identifies the gluten as being from barley, wheat, or rye.

    As with ELISA, the device could detect gluten below 20 parts per million, which is the maximum threshold allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a "gluten-free" label. Because it has fewer processing steps, and uses automated sampling, the new sensor typically produces results 45 minutes faster due than ELISA tests.

    The new test is still in development, and not set to replace ELISA anytime soon. But progress in the gluten-free world is rapid these days, so changes to commercial gluten detection systems are likely on the near future.

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    20 ppm means there is still gluten in the food that's claiming to be gluten-free. Who decided my immune system won't react to 20 ppm of gluten? Just because 20 ppm is low level is a poor explanation- One bacterium is a small amount but it can still cause an immune response, no? How do we get "them" to change this so that gluten free truly means 0 ppm?!

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    20 ppm means there is still gluten in the food that's claiming to be gluten-free. Who decided my immune system won't react to 20 ppm of gluten? Just because 20 ppm is low level is a poor explanation- One bacterium is a small amount but it can still cause an immune response, no? How do we get "them" to change this so that gluten free truly means 0 ppm?!

    If you set the level at zero, it is likely that no companies would be willing to use the "gluten-free" term on their package due to liability concerns.

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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 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. 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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