ADA Consumer News/Saliva and Celiac Diseases

Boston – Patients suffering from celiac disease may soon have reason to celebrate: Researchers have discovered that human saliva contains enzymes that may help break down dietary gluten.

Dietary gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that causes serious health hazards in certain genetically predisposed individuals. Patients who have difficulty tolerating gluten suffer from celiac diseases, which, according to the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse affects more than 2 million people in the United States.

Dr. Eva Helmerhorst, a periodontist at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and lead researcher of the paper, "Gastro-intestinal Microbes Degrading Dietary Gluten," believes the discovery of enzymes with "gluten-degrading capacity" could "open new diagnostic and treatment avenues for patients afflicted with celiac disease."

Dr. Helmerhorst's research is part of an R01 award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

"The ultimate goal is to develop novel and clinically effective strategies to detoxify immunogenic gluten using therapeutic applications including enzymatic and probiotic approaches."

Using saliva to detect and diagnose oral disease and other diseases that affect one's general health is a field of research called "salivary diagnostics". The field has emerged as one of dentistry's most promising areas of research.

For more information about salivary diagnostics, visit the American Dental Association's website at ADA.org and click on oral health topics (or go directly to "www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/salivary-diagnostics."

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