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    Celiac Disease Underdiagnosed?

    Only 5% of Patients Correctly Diagnosed With Gluten Intolerance

    Biopsy May Miss Celiac Disease continued...

    The fact that they got worse shows they had celiac disease, says researcher Markku Maki, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Tampere in Finland.

    Plus, when these patients then eliminated gluten from their diet, their symptoms got better and their intestinal lining healed, he tells WebMD.

    Green says researchers are working on a better blood test to detect celiac disease.

    There are other reasons celiac disease is often missed, he adds. "It's a problem of physician education, as doctors are taught it's a rare childhood disease," he says. In fact, celiac disease can appear at any point in life.

    Then, there's the fact that the symptoms are so varied. Patients may go to one doctor for bloating and diarrhea, another for joint pain, and another for unexplained anemia, and no one puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, Green says.

    New Pill for Celiac Disease

    Once celiac disease is diagnosed, "the only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. But gluten is so ubiquitous that it is difficult to completely get it out of the diet," Green says.

    Inadvertent consumption of gluten is the major causes of symptoms in people who know they have the disease, he says.

    That's why researchers are closely watching early studies of two new treatments that may help protect patients with celiac disease from exposure to gluten.

    The first study looked at an experimental pill called larazotide, also known as AT-1001. It blocks gluten from crossing into the intestinal lining where it can cause harm.

    The study of 69 patients showed that those who were given gluten and larazotide had less nausea, bloating, and other symptoms of celiac disease than those who were given gluten and a placebo. However, the drug did no better than placebo at preventing gluten from leaking through the intestine lining over the 14 days of active treatment, which was the study's primary goal.

    "What was surprising was that leakage improved in all patients over the first week," says Daniel Leffler, MD, clinical research director at the Celiac Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

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