Could diagnosing celiac now be as simple as a finger prick?
Researchers at the University of Grenada in Spain have developed a minimally invasive blood test for celiac disease. The test, a finger prick that works in conjunction with a testing strip, is similar in principle to the finger prick/test strip method used by diabetics to monitor glucose levels.
Currently, the testing system for celiac is fairly cumbersome and involves several steps: presenting to your doctor with symptoms, a celiac blood panel testing for antibodies to gluten, and a small intestine biopsy to confirm a positive blood test. This system of course misses quite a lot of people, as the first step in the diagnostic process is showing the common symptoms connected to celiac disease.
The primary researcher, a pediatrician at the health center in Maracena (Grenada), was inspired by her adolescent patients to develop this testing method. She wondered if there may be a sigificant number of children with silent or latent celiac disease who may go undiagnosed.
Why is Latent Celiac Disease Dangerous?
"Latent" or "silent" celiac disease refers to those individuals who have celiac disease but have no obvious pronounced symptoms. For some people, especially those in the beginning stages of the illness, there are no symptoms for celiac disease even while the damage is already occuring. These individuals run the risk of developing full-blown celiac disease later in life, and along with it possible irreversible complications of untreated celiac such as bowel cancer, infertility and other autoimmune diseases. The health ramifications of untreated celiac disease make getting an early and accurate diagnosis critical, even before symptoms present themselves.
The Research Study:
the study, 198 children ages two to four years were assessed for celiac disease. The test strip method was able to accurately detect six children as celiac disease positive. To confirm celiac disease in those children, further testing was conducted, including endoscopy and biopsy of the small intestine. None of the children exhibited detectable symptoms of celiac disease at the time.
How Does the Test Work?
What this Means for Celiac Disease Testing:
That said, while results show the finger prick method as having a high accuracy rate, the test unfortunately cannot be used in place of a traditional celiac diagnosis. Researchers note that a positive result on the test is only the first step in the diagnosis of celiac disease. Patients who test positive on the finger prick test would then need the celiac antibody blood test and an endoscopy for confirmation. A negative test result would allow doctors to rule out celiac disease without having to continue with additional testing measures.