Coeliac Awareness Week: Research helping to diagnose coeliac patients with a drop of blood.

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After taking a drop of blood and waiting just ten minutes, Holly Evans received a clear result. Holly, 23, became involved in the family coeliac point of care (PoCT) trial at Wesley Medical Research after her father Stephen was diagnosed with coeliac disease in September. As one of 264 patients in a research trial at Wesley Medical Research, the impact of this technology could identify patients who need further tests for coeliac disease.

“This test has changed my life. Dad encouraged me to participate in the trial after his diagnosis. When I received a positive pin-prick test result it caused me to investigate further. Thankfully I did,” said Holly. 

Holly had sustained significant damage to her small bowel from undiagnosed coeliac disease.  “Without this initial test, I wouldn’t have done an endoscopy and I would not have been diagnosed so early,” said Holly.

Lead investigator Dr James Daveson, is aiming to validate a simple test using a pin prick of blood which can provide a quick result as to whether people need to go and have further tests for coeliac disease. The strong genetic link in coeliac disease means that immediate family members have an approximate 1 in 10 chance of also having the disease, with daughters of affected parents being the most likely.

A picture of Holly Evans speaking about living with Coeliac disease
Holly Evans was a participant in the Point of Care Coeliac test and received a positive result.

The impact of this technology could lead to a simpler, faster diagnosis – an important step in a timely and accurate diagnosis,” said lead researcher, Dr James Daveson.

Studies have found there is often a delay in diagnosis of those presenting with symptoms of coeliac disease of between three and thirteen years. This is not simply a case of GPs ignoring the condition; coeliac disease has symptoms that are similar to many other health issues and can be hard to spot. A large number of people with the disease don’t experience symptoms at all, and are unaware they are suffering from significant unrecognised harm to their health.

Holly is not alone. It is estimated that 350,000 Australians have coeliac disease, with the majority remaining undiagnosed. The disease can potentially cause damage to multiple parts of the body, not just the bowel which is commonly thought. Left untreated it can increase a person’s risk of developing lymphoma, infertility and osteoporosis. 

Coeliac Awareness Week from 13-20 March is an opportunity to highlight the prevalence of this disease in our community.   

Coeliac Australia Chief Executive Michelle Laforest said: “This significant trial is raising awareness of the importance of family screening and already improving the lives of Australians with coeliac disease by helping patients like Holly to an early diagnosis. We congratulate Dr Daveson and the team at Wesley Medical Research on the progress of the trial to date.”

Wesley Medical Research is focused on coeliac disease and improving outcomes for these patients. If you are interested in supporting our work or getting involved in a research trial, visit our website – www.wesleyresearch.org.au/coeliac

Results from this research will be available later this year.

The Coeliac pin-prick test could drastically shorten the time it takes to diagnose someone with Coeliac disease.

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