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  • "Vaccine" for Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      The "vaccine" Nexvax 2 is designed to work similar to allergy shots.


    Caption: Image: CC--Steven Depolo

    An experimental "vaccine" called Nexvax 2 is being scheduled for human clinical trials to evaluate its effectiveness in celiac disease. Immusan T is a biotechnology company focusing on developing therapeutic vaccines and received $40 million in 2017 to fund Nexvax 2 to reduce the "suffering of those with celiac disease since it is a serious inflammatory autoimmune disease caused from gluten".

    Since there is no cure for celiac disease except following a strict gluten-free diet, symptoms can vary greatly based on age and diet content. Children with DQ2 and DQ8 genes may have a swollen belly, chronic diarrhea and poor appetite which can cause delayed growth. Adults often experience abdominal pain, fatigue, anemia and joint pain. 


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    When grain products- containing gluten and gliadin- are consumed tissue transglutaminase in the small intestinal lining signals an immune response that produces antibodies which attack the lining of the small intestine. This leads to malabsorption of nutrients from food. Nutrient deficiencies cause liver, bone and neuron damage resulting in abnormal growth, poor tissue repair and numerous symptoms.

    Allergy vs Auto-Immune Disease

    It is important to understand that celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy, blistery skin rash) are auto-immune disorders NOT an allergy to gluten. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a compound causing the release of histamines. An auto-immune disorder results when the body misidentifies a substance as dangerous and causes the immune system to attack the body's own tissue.

    Celiac Disease Epidemic

    Celiac disease and gluten enteropathies are a growing epidemic in the U.S. and across the world due to the increasing use of processed foods and food additives that use grain products for thickening, stability and dietary supplement fillers. Environmental factors may contribute to a person becoming gluten intolerant even after decades of consuming gluten without suffering serious health consequences.

    How "Vaccine" Works

    The "vaccine" Nexvax 2 is designed to work similar to allergy shots according to Live Science (Nov. 9, 2018). The treatment involves twice weekly injections administered over a 16 week (4 months) period to reprogram T cells to begin to tolerate gluten and suppress immune destruction of the villi in the small intestine. No available data is currently available on the ingredients used in Nexvax 2 so safety can not be assessed at this point.

    What is known is that vaccines DO NOT mean immunization whether through injection or oral dosing. Immunization is a process for developing tolerance and protection against infections. Dorland's Medical Dictionary states vaccination means to "inject a suspension of attenuated or killed microorganisms administered for prevention or treatment of infectious disease".

    The Center for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) states that vaccination does NOT guarantee immunity. Natural immunity comes only after a person recovers from the actual disease, and not all who receive a vaccination will have immunity. No vaccine is 100% effective because everyone's immune system reacts differently.

    Before lining up to participate in the clinical trials, adapt a more educated approach to vaccination safety regarding a disease managed very effectively by a healthy gluten-free, lectin-free diet. It is a personal decision for adults with celiac disease whether or not they chose to vaccinate. 

    It will be many years before the safety of this celiac disease "vaccine" can be established.  On a personal note: I have been a celiac for more than 70 years and would never consider a "vaccine" just so I didn't have to worry about hidden gluten. 


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    I think this is one of several exciting research projects that I'm hopeful can improve the lives of those with celiac disease. I suspect if you had the choice of knowing you could take a vaccine that would improve your next 70 years with celiac than you would have a different perspective. 

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    I don’t believe you should be calling this a vaccine, with or without quotes. Celiac disease shots should suffice. Allergy shots are not called vaccines and neither should this. It is not a vaccine why complicate the message. 

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    You know. I have lost trust of anything I read on this site. The info given doesn't seem to be substantiated and it seems opinions override the content. I am so hopeful for this long-running website to get their facts and acts together. I am continually disappointed.

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    If they are using tiny amounts of gliadin twice a week for 4 months in the injections, I would imagine the person receiving this would feel very sick after weeks of this. Not a trial I would sign up for. I got allergy desensitization injections as a kid. My arm would swell like a baseball if the dose was too high. I wouldn't want a similar experience with gluten.

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    It would be more accurate to call Nexvax2 immunotherapy.  While I share your concern about the long term safety of Nexvax2, please distinguish between opinion and fact.  A significant subgroup of Celiac patients do not improve on a gluten free diet.  And, a significant subgroup of pediatric Celiac patients appear to respond to a gluten free diet (symptom resolution and negative antibodies) but still show evidence of active disease upon endoscopic evaluation.  Your experience is your experience.

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    From the article I can’t assess the purpose of the shots: are they to protect from incidental gluten exposure or can one eat normally, disregarding gluten?  

    Assuming that the shots are reasonably free from unacceptable side-effects and risk, I’d get them even if it only meant that once a month I could have pizza and beer or an Italian meal with bread and a gluten-containing entree.

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    I have been gluten free for 8 years. I applaud work in this field. I rely a lot on rice and I worry about the possible buildup of arsenic found in rice - especially American grown rice. Having the ability to eat gluten to vary my diet would be great.

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    I would try it if mean could eat fish and chip again and birthday cakes and Piza I dispoint can't have pasta on prescription now. I very disappointed it been noughting but row in my family

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    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that vaccinations do not equal immunity since in the common parlance (CDC included) vaccine and immunization are used synonymously.  

    I was astonished by your comment that you would not consider a vaccine so you would not have to worry about hidden gluten.  Hidden gluten is becoming a huge issue and making many of our lives miserable as we try to stay on a gluten free diet.  The children and adults and their symptomology mentioned early in the article surely are well worth a vaccine/shot series should it be as safe as can be otherwise.

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    Guest SDPrairieCeone

    Posted

    Guest Daisy - You are unnecessarily restricting yourself. There are tons of gluten-free flour mixes, cake mixes, pasta, and pizzas on the market. Yes, they are spendy, but many makers offer coupons online. Many recipes I use for quick breads and cakes adapt very well to substituting gluten-free flour blend for all-purpose flour. Experimentation with your own favorites is needed. Best hint ever to counteract the dryness/crumbles of baked goods from a chef I know who has experience with gluten-free food prep: add a big blob of sour cream. Made the best ever cobbler topping! You are limited only by your imagination. I have gifted cakes and cookies to friends and neighbors and they are always shocked when I tell them "It's gluten free." You don't have to wait for a medical treatment to enjoy your life now. I control my Celiac, it does not control me.

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  • About Me

    Betty Wedman-St Louis, PhD, RD is Assistant Professor, NY Chiropractic College, MS Clinical Nutrition Program Nutrition Assessment Course & Food Science Course.  She is author of the following books:

    • Fast and Simple Diabetes Menus, McGraw Hill Companies
    • Diabetes Meals on the Run, Contemporary Books
    • Living With Food Allergies, Contemporary Books
    • Diabetic Desserts, Contemporary Books
    • Quick & Easy Diabetes Menus Cookbook, Contemporary Books
    • American Diabetes Association Holiday Cookbook and Parties & Special Celebrations Cookbook, Prentice Hall Books

     

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