Potential New Treatment Target for Celiac Disease

Bacteria found in saliva could expand treatment options for patients who are gluten intolerant from celiac disease.

A common bacteria found in saliva may lead to a new treatment for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes health and digestive problems from consuming gluten.

The only treatment option currently available to patients with celiac disease is to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, which can be difficult for many patients, and could disrupt their quality of life.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten, the immune response in their small intestines goes into overdrive. This enzyme from the oral bacteria may unlock potential new treatments for these patients.

Research for new celiac disease treatments includes vaccine-based strategies, and using enzymes to target peptides in gluten that cause an immune system to overreact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Physiology — Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

An immune system overreaction is also common in other diseases, such as asthma. The overreaction in patients with asthma causes an exacerbation, and could potentially hospitalize patients. In the study, scientists discovered an enzyme from Rothia bacteria found in the mouth that has high gluten-degrading activities.

Additionally, Rothia bacteria is known to be resistant to digestive enzymes produced by mammals. Scientists isolated the new class of enzymes from Rothia mucilaginosa, an oral microbial colonizer, according to the study.

The enzymes are also in the same class as Bacillus enzymes, which are considered to be food-grade. B subtilis has been consumed for decades, and is commonly consumed in a Japanese fermented soy bean dish called natto.

Though it has been widely consumed, there have been very little occurrences of adverse events. The safety and food-grade status of B subtilis could lead to therapeutic applications of the enzyme and new treatment options for patients with celiac disease (CD), according to the study.

“Going forward, since gluten-degrading enzymes are the preferred therapy of choice for CD, and given the exceptional activity of the subtilisins and their association with natural human microbial colonizers, they are worthy of further exploration for clinical applications in CD and potentially other gluten-intolerance disorders,” the researchers concluded.