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New fingerprick test to spot celiac disease in children

Saturday, Mar 12, 2016,14:55 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

London | A simple, non-invasive blood test may allow doctors to determine whether a child suffers from celiac disease – a condition in which the small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten, making it difficult to digest food.

The method developed by researchers at University of Granada (UGR) in Spain does not require experienced personnel (although it has to be interpreted by health professionals), is quick (10 minutes), economic (10-12 euros per device) and is less invasive than a blood extraction. Celiac disease is a systemic disease caused by a permanent intolerance to gluten, which can be found in wheat, barley and rye,  and it affects people with genetic predisposition.

The symptoms are intestinal (intestinal malabsorption, abdominal distension, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, etc) and extra-digestive (skin problems, joint pain, cephalalgia, etc). Silent celiac disease is that which goes unnoticed to the eyes of the doctor because it presents minor symptoms, imperceptible even for the patient. In order to diagnose celiac disease, three things are required – clinical symptomatology, the assessment of celiac disease antibodies present in blood, and a compatible histological study via intestinal biopsy, researchers said.

The goal of the research was to assess the prevalence of the silent celiac disease among children aged two to four. For that purpose, the researchers used new devices which allowed to detect the disease markers (auto-antibodies) present in the patient’s capillary blood. A puncture in the finger is enough to take a little drop of blood, which is then put in the device and, in case the subject suffers from the disease, a pink line will appear in the strip (just like in pregnancy tests), researchers said.

A positive outcome of the test will require further confirmation via blood extraction and assessment of the disease antibodies via other methods, but a negative outcome will allow to dismiss, with certainty, being affected by the disease.

Researchers detected 6 celiac children among the 198 who participated in the study (which means a very high prevalence of 3 per cent, higher than the European mean). All of them presented no symptoms at all, or minor imperceptible symptoms which did not make their parents consult a pediatrician.