Study Sessions: Drug Heals Celiac Monkeys, Undiagnosed CD Impacts Pregnancy

Drug heals celiac monkeys

For the first time, monkeys with celiac-like disease have recovered when treated with an experimental drug. The disease in rhesus macaques has similar genetics to that in humans and causes intestinal injury on exposure to gluten. As in humans, the illness ranges from mild to severe between individuals. Monkeys with symptoms and gut injury respond well to a gluten-free diet.

Researchers at Tulane National Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana, identified six macaques with mild or moderate celiac-like conditions during their semi-annual checkup. These individuals received anti-interleukin-15 (anti-IL-15) treatment while consuming normal gluten-containing monkey chow. The drug reversed intestinal damage and inflammation. It also reduced some blood test markers of the disease, but not all.

In healthy humans and monkeys, the immune agent interleukin-15 (IL-15) normally manages certain white blood cells involved in fighting disease. People and monkeys with celiac produce too much IL-15, causing inflammation and damage to the small intestine.

This study shows anti-IL-15 can neutralize surplus IL-15 in macaques. Because overproduction of IL-15 occurs in a variety of inflammation, its antibody could potentially treat not only celiac but other autoimmune diseases in humans.

Undiagnosed celiac disease impacts pregnancy

Women with diagnosed celiac do not see the condition impact pregnancy and childbirth, according to Danish national statistics. However, prior to diagnosis and treatment, women had an increased risk for spontaneous abortion or stillbirth.

The data came from the entire population of Danish women between 1977 and 2016. The analysis included 6,319 women diagnosed with celiac who had follow-up records in the health registry. After diagnosis, they were just as likely to become pregnant as women in the general population. They had no more problems during pregnancy and childbirth.

In contrast, women with celiac had fewer pregnancies than average during the two years prior to diagnosis. Overall, women with undiagnosed celiac had 11 more miscarriages and 1.62 more stillbirths per 1,000 live births. This supports a focus on early diagnosis in women, especially those who lose pregnancies.

Van Waffle is a freelance journalist in Waterloo, Canada, and research editor for Gluten-Free Living. He blogs at

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