Simpler Diagnosis Of Coeliac Disease: Australian Scientists Devise New Test

Photograph: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute website Australian scientists have made progress towards a blood test that could dramatically simplify the diagnosis of coeliac disease. The test will do away with the need for people to eat gluten for weeks before a diagnosis can be made, says lead researcher Dr Jason Tye-Din, head of coeliac research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. Results will take 24 hours and people will not need to have tissue samples taken from their intestines. A pilot study on 48 people shows the test is accurate after only three days of gluten consumption, says Tye-Din. Many people follow gluten-free diets without a formal diagnosis and the current testing method requires them to eat gluten again, which is often unpleasant and difficult, says Tye-Din, a gastroenterologist at Royal Melbourne hospital. It will, however, be several years before the new test is available for general use, he says. Coeliac disease is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten in the diet, leading to damage to the small intestine. It can cause digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, and diarrhoea, as well as lethargy, anaemia, headaches and weight loss. Long-term complications include malnutrition, osteoporosis, pregnancy issues and liver failure. Up to one in 60 women and one in 80 men in Australia have the condition, but most are undiagnosed. Tye-Din, whose study is published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Immunology, believes a simple test will greatly improve diagnosis and treatment. The study is supported by by Coeliac Australia, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian government. Sign up for the Guardian Today Our editors' picks for the day's top news and commentary delivered to your inbox each morning. article

Specialist to help ease wait times

September figures show priority-one gastroenterology patients waited an average 47 days to be seen at the outpatient clinic - 50 per cent longer than the recommended 30-day maximum - and category-two patients waited an average 16 weeks. But waiting times have improved since a year ago, when some children waited up to a year to be assessed because of an acute shortage of gastroenterologists. It prompted the State Government to launch an urgent recruitment drive for specialists. The hospital says progress has been made after finding a gastroenterologist to fill a vacant position but it will have to take on more staff. A spokeswoman said PMH expected waiting times to improve further with a new part-time gastroenterologist due to start this month. Another 0.5 full-time equivalent position was in the appointment process and PMH was optimistic about appointing someone early next year. The Australian Medical Association welcomed the recent addition of a specialist but said it was clear more were needed to keep up with demand in the highly specialised area. WA president Richard Choong said gastroenterology was historically a difficult specialty to staff, which led to long delays for patients to be assessed and treated. "The fact PMH has managed to find someone recently and is close to more appointments is good news and very encouraging," he said. "This is an area of medicine that is very specific and there are many conditions that need to access its services, but it's a classic example of where there just aren't enough people to do the jobs required." Dr Choong said as a result many children were waiting too long, often in pain and discomfort, to be diagnosed and treated. "What I really hope is that the hospital will be able to recruit the extra staff it needs so children can be seen even more quickly," he said. visit the website