Gluten-Destroying Drug Succeeds In Early Trial

It won't help celiacs eat a normal diet, but a pill might allow people with discomfort, rather than health effects, to eat the wheat bread. Albina Glisic/Shutterstock

Cornell has published a double-blind study in the International Journal of Celiac Disease, where 14 celiacs were given GluteGuard, while six others took a placebo daily. Both groups ate a diet containing 1 gram (0.035 ounces) of gluten a day. (A single slice of whole wheat bread has almost five times as much).

Two-thirds of those taking the placebo experienced symptoms so painful they dropped out of the program, while only one of those on GluteGuard did likewise. A previous study on people with dermatitis herpetiformis, skin ulcers induced by exposure to gluten, saw a similar dropout rate among those on the placebo, while most given the GluteGuard experienced relatively mild symptoms.

Despite the small size of the studies, Cornell notes the studies demonstrate GluteGuard makes a difference, but does not want to encourage celiacs to think the drug he devised can replace a careful diet.

Potentially, a much larger market for GluteGuard exists among people with what has been called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Debate rages over whether NCGS even exists, or if people with sensitivity to wheat or short-chain carbohydrates are being misdiagnosed. Cornell told IFLScience he believes NCGS is real and affects people whose bodies can break down some gluten, but lack the capacity to deal with the quantities encountered in a typical diet.

For those whose NCGS causes discomfort, rather than damage, on encounters with gluten, it might be safe to use GluteGuard as a substitute for a low-gluten diet if they find standard bread loaves or pasta plates too tempting. Nevertheless, Glutagen notes that even many people with NCGS apparently experience severe consequences, and should use GluteGuard as an adjunct, rather than repalcement for, a gluten-free diet. Celiacs are estimated to make up 1 percent of the population, while claims for NCGS go as high as 10 percent, suggesting a much larger pool of potential beneficiaries, if used with care.

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