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Australian papaya pill offers hope of relief to gluten-intolerance

Staff Writer |
A pill developed by Melbourne-based scientists that reduces the effects of coeliac disease will be made commercially available.

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The pre-meal pill, which contains an enzyme from the papaya fruit, protects patients with coeliac disease, an auto-immune disorder which affects the small intestine, from the health problems associated with ingesting gluten.

Three clinical trials of the tablet also revealed that the tablet was able to alleviate ongoing coeliac symptoms in patients who had maintained a gluten-free diet.

Finlay Macrae, the Royal Melbourne Hospital's Head of Colorectal Medicine and Genetics and leader of the clinical trials, said the pill could protect patients against damage to the stomach lining, as well as chronic skin conditions associated with the disease.

Macrae said that while there was no intention for the pill, developed by Australian biopharmaceutical company Glutage, to replace gluten-free diets, it would provide a safety net against the two most common types of injury in coeliac patients.

"There is the direct toxic effect from the gluten as it injures the lining of the small bowel. Then once that lining is damaged it allows the components of the gluten molecule to get inside the lining of the gut and it induces an immune attack from your own body," Macrae told News Limited on Thursday.

"The components of gluten that cause those two different effects are slightly different parts of the gluten molecule, and this enzyme seems to target both."

Ted Stelmasiak, executive director of Glutage, said it took "several decades" of testing the pill at Melbourne's Bio 21 institute to reach this point.

"For the first time a natural, plant-paced enzyme can help make a positive difference in the lives of those with gluten-related digestion issues," Stelmasiak told News Limited.

Ten percent of Australian adults limit or avoid gluten consumption to prevent gastrointestinal issues and fatigue.

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