A vaccine in the works could vanquish the fear of bread among the 2 to 3 million Americans suffering from celiac disease. Entering its second phase of testing, immunotherapy Nexvax2 from ImmusanT Inc. promises to help build resistance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and hair and skin products that triggers a harmful reaction in the small intestines of those with a sensitivity, reports Cox Media. Those taking the vaccine would continue to eat a gluten-free diet as they build up their defenses, per Beyond Celiac. But if all goes according to plan, the patients' immune systems would eventually be "reprogrammed" to tolerate gluten, per the Sydney Morning Herald.
"A successful therapy that can restore normal gluten tolerance would revolutionize celiac disease management," says one of the researchers at Royal Melbourne Hospital. The vaccine would help the vast majority of celiac patients, those with a genetic form of the disorder known as HLA-DQ2. Nexvax2's randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will initially involve patients in Melbourne, though the plan is to expand to include 150 people in Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Such trials typically last two years, per Good Morning America. The vaccine would need to pass a third phase of testing before ImmusanT seeks FDA approval. (A gluten-free diet may carry health risks.)