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A vaccine for gluten sensitivity

A company known as ImmusanT, Inc. is attempting to develop a vaccine known as Nexvax2.1  The developers hope that the vaccine will induce tolerance for the three main peptides in gluten. This treatment will supposedly work much like existing treatment programs for other allergens in which the patient receives a series of inoculations that begin with a very small dose, followed by increasingly larger doses, until the patient no longer shows any significant symptoms in response to exposure to the antigen.  There's some question about the effectiveness of this approach, due to the fact that the treatment program will only address the three most potent peptides in gluten.  Actually, there are several  hundred other peptides in wheat, barley, rye, and oats that are known to trigger reactions in celiacs, though for many individuals, the reactions to these peptides are usually at a less severe level.

Unfortunately, research shows that while orally-induced tolerance can be used to bring relief of clinical symptoms, continued ingestion of a known antigen will result in a progression of intestinal inflammation and antibody production.2  It remains to be shown whether a vaccine-induced tolerance of a food sensitivity might have a similar adverse health effect.  That consideration, plus the fact that the vaccine will only address a few of the many peptides that cause celiacs to react, raises a red flag about the possible long-term consequences of relying on such a vaccine to safeguard the health of someone who is sensitive to gluten, unless of course, gluten is still strictly excluded from the diet.

1. Nexvax2 – Lead therapeutic
2. Oral tolerance induction does not resolve gastrointestinal inflammation in a mouse model of food allergy. 


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