How Does The Experimental Vaccine For Celiac Disease Work?

January 25, 2021

An experimental “vaccine” for celiac disease will be tested in a new clinical trial to see if the treatment can protect patients with the disease from eating gluten – or, in other words, make it safe for those patients to eat gluten.

The treatment, called Nexvax2 and made by biotech company ImmusanT Inc. is an immunotherapy that aims to “reprogram” the immune system to tolerate gluten, the researchers said.

Celiac disease is a condition in which a person’s immune system reacts abnormally to gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley – in a way that damages the lining of the small intestine. In the United States, 1 in 100 people suffer from the disease.

Currently, the only way to control celiac disease is for patients to avoid gluten-containing foods for the rest of their lives. But even with the widespread availability of gluten-free foods, such a diet is still difficult to follow, and patients may be inadvertently exposed to the protein.” “Even the most diligent patients can suffer the adverse effects of accidental exposure,” study researcher Jason Tye-Din, head of celiac disease research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, said in an Oct. 30 statement.

Nexvax2 works in a similar way to an allergy shot. The treatment – which consists of twice-weekly injections over a 16-week period – consists of molecules called peptides that cause an immune response in celiac disease patients. In theory, according to ImmusanT, exposure to the peptide over time could help reprogram immune cells called T-cells to become tolerant to gluten and no longer trigger an immune response to the substance. This could allow people with celiac disease to eat a diet that includes gluten.

The company says the vaccine is intended for use in celiac patients who carry an immune system gene called HLA-DQ2.5, which is found in about 90 percent of patients.

In an early trial of Nexvax2 in a small group of people, researchers showed that the vaccine was safe and well-tolerated in celiac disease patients. The new study, which will include about 150 patients, is designed to further test the safety as well as the effectiveness of the treatment.

“This new trial is important to establish a clinical proof of concept for a treatment that will provide benefits beyond those of a gluten-free diet,” said Tye-Din.