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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 00:18 GMT
Test for dietary disorder
French stick
Coeliac patients cannot eat many wheat-based products
A new test to detect the intestinal disorder coeliac disease is being developed by scientists.

It is likely to be more user-friendly than the current test, which involves taking a tissue sample from the gut.

Sufferers of coeliac disease are intolerant of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and some other cereals.


It is highly accurate in detection of untreated patients with coeliac disease

Dr Luis Sorell
The condition is treatable, but can lead to serious long-term complications, such as the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, infertility and cancer.

If people with the disease continue to eat gluten they are likely to suffer from anaemia and lethargy.

Even though the disease is not uncommon, doctors can misinterpret these symptoms and diagnose the patient as suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tell-tale sign

The new test works by detecting antibodies that are found in the blood of people with coeliac disease.

It involves dipping a specially prepared strip into a blood sample. A result is produced after just ten minutes.

Trials of the test carried out by researchers from the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana, Cuba, produced impressive results.

Samples from 50 untreated coeliac patients all produced positive results, while samples from 40 non-coeliac patients with other gastrointestinal disorders all proved negative.

Researcher Dr Luis Sorell said: "This assay detects antibodies quickly and easily.

"It is highly accurate in detection of untreated patients with coeliac disease."

Dr Sorell said the new test could prove particularly useful in patients with few or untypical symptoms of coeliac disease, or in high-risk groups such as people with diabetes or Down's syndrome.

A spokesperson for the Coeliac UK told BBC News Online: "A new diagnostic test for coeliac disease that avoided an intestinal biopsy would be very welcome.

"This new assay does take that goal a stage further and continued research in this direction on larger numbers of people would indicate whether it offers the same level of confidence in diagnosis as the biopsy."

See also:

18 Nov 99 | Health
Autism link to food intolerance
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