A simple finger prick test has been developed by researchers to determine whether a child aged two to four suffers from celiac disease or not without the necessity of a blood extraction.
This method does not require experienced personnel, is quick (10 minutes), economical and, most important of all in the case of infant population, this method is less invasive than a blood extraction, the study said.
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 a genetic predisposition.
Currently, 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.
The goal of the new research carried out by the University of Granada in Spain 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 on the strip (just like in pregnancy tests). Pink line means that there are auto-antibodies characteristic to the celiac disease present in blood," said the study carried out by Maria Vega Almazan, and colleagues.
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, the researchers explained.
"We have proven during our research, a negative outcome in the strip lowered the probability of suffering from celiac disease to zero, given its high negative predictive value," the study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, said.
The researchers detected six celiac children among the 198 who participated in the study.
All of them presented no symptoms at all, or minor imperceptible symptoms which did not make their parents consult a pediatrician.
"It's a novel research, given that there are few published works that use these devices in apparently healthy people," Almazan stressed.