GF News Alert: Saliva Study Shows Promise

Back in the fall I got all excited because there was a new and improved blood test for celiac disease. Way less invasive than an endoscopy (although many of you wrote in to say endoscopies really aren’t so bad).

Of course, that was then. Ready for the next big thing? Stick out your tongue and say ahhh.


Well, something like that. Science is heading in the direction of a saliva test for celiac disease.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition (and covered on shows extremely promising results of an Italian study.

In the study, the saliva of slightly more than 4,000 children was tested. Children whose samples came back positive were given a blood test. If the blood test came back positive, they were tested via endoscopy and biopsy.

The statistics are pretty amazing:

  • 4,048 children gave usable saliva samples.
  • 32 of them tested positive and were given the blood test.
    • 31 of these children tested positive again and were subject to endoscopy and biopsy.
    • 28 of these children showed villous atrophy and one had Marsh 1 lesions (a potential indicator of atrophy to come).
  • A further 9 children showed borderline symptoms via saliva.
    • 3 of these had positive blood tests.
  • The overall rate of celiac disease in the sample was 1.16%, in keeping with generally accepted estimates of the disease’s popularity.
  • The rate of symptomatic to asymptomatic children was 1:1.16 – showing that approximately half of the children with celiac disease had no obvious health concerns.

It’s not too surprising that this study comes from Italy, land of mandatory celiac testing for children. Kudos to them for working to make screening even easier; I look forward to the day when testing is mandatory in the US as well, and requires nothing more invasive than a cotton swab.

What developments are you looking forward to in the science-of-celiac?

17 thoughts on “GF News Alert: Saliva Study Shows Promise”

  1. That’s terrific news! Less invasive and same results as a blood test! I’d definitely opt for this over bloodwork. Maybe it will become available OTC someday for at-home testing.

  2. I was diagnosed gluten intolerant through a saliva test from my naturopath. I had been having stomach issues off and on, but went to him for my thyroid (hypo). I thought I’d get that squared away first, and then go after my tummy problems, but he found the issue right away. I suppose I could technically be celiac, but the treatment for both issues is the same. I didn’t think it was really necessary to go to another doctor to get expensive testing done because the treatment was to eat GF anyway. I was eating gluten at the time of the test.

  3. The saliva test is very encouraging news and I do hope…I mean really hope…that the US will take the initiative to begin the testing of children as soon as possible. Hats off to Italy! Way to go!!

  4. this test can be done thru enterolab in dallas tx and is a genetic test. have been using this in my office for the past 2 years. excellent results and easy. go to for more info

  5. My husband, his brother and mother all have celiac disease. When my son was 12 I got a feeling that he might also be affected even though he was for the most part symtom free. I found a place online (Prometheus Laboratories at that will test for the genetic markers that cause celiac disease via a saliva sample. The results showed that he was at high risk for having celiac disease. I had to then push hard with my son’s pediatrician to do the blood test. That came back positive and he then had the upper endoscopy which confirmed diagnosis.

    I truly hope that the saliva test discussed in the article becomes available in the US to make testing on children an easier, less traumatic event!

  6. Hello, Hello.

    A friend sent me this link with the reference to the new saliva tests being studied in Italy.

    Let’s be careful now. The new saliva study is very exciting AND we have to remember that it is not more accurate than the blood tests-it appears to be ‘almost as accurate’ as the blood test. It is a good general screen. as a matter of fact the Author’s own words identify it as a screen-not as a diagnosis- “We demonstrated that it is possible to perform a powerful, simple, well-accepted, and sensitive CD screening using saliva.”

    Now how do we interpret this?

    First we must understand that the blood tests are very accurate when a person has total villous atrophy. Anything less than total villous atrophy and the blood tests can be wrong and give false negatives (meaning the blood tests say there’s ‘no problem’) as often as 7 out of 10 times.
    “But they’re blood tests-they’re supposed to tell us what’s wrong”
    Unfortunately, they’re not always accurate-there are many false negatives.

    Second, do we really want to limit ourselves to a test (blood test or saliva) that has a standard which is very accurate and dependable only at the end-stage of disease (total villous atrophy)? This is what I call the ‘Conundrum of Gluten Sensitivity’. Many people do the blood test, it comes back negative, yet they know they feel better when not eating gluten. Where’s the problem? It’s with the tests! They’re very accurate with total villous atrophy-not with the earlier stages of the problem.

    Third-as a ‘screen’, the saliva test is a good screen. It will be available in a few weeks. But it will not be a slam-dunk. That is covered by the new blood test coming out at the same time as the salive test.

    Fourth. Use the saliva tests as a screen with your children or anyone who can not or will not do a blood test.

    Fifth, the new saliva test and the new blood tests will be available 1-11-11. You can go to the Lab’s web site and Register for the Grand Opening Announcement.
    Pass this information on to your Drs.-they’ll want to know about the tests. Or you can go to my web site for more information

    There is a paradigm shift coming in 2011. Many thousands of previously undiagnosed are about to find out they have a sensitivity to gluten. And through the educational efforts of (now thousands) of Drs. who have already learned of these tests coming out, they’ll have the tools to identify the earlier stages of this epidemic of Gluten sensitivity, with a comprehensive overview of treating it. A GFD is not enough-it’s only the beginning of healing the body that has been damaged over years from eating the wrong food.

    Much more information coming in the next few weeks. If you want to receive these Announcements, go to and Register for our Newsletter.

    2011 is going to be the best year ever for those with Gluten Sensitivity.
    Towards Healing the Planet
    One Patient at a Time

    Tom O’Bryan, DC, CCN, DACBN

  7. just want to correct my earlier statement so as to not mislead anyone. the test i was talking about through enterolab is a genetic test via saliva…not a test to determine villous atrophy or active celiac. this is not the same test as mentioned in the article. to my understanding, as Dr. O’bryan mentioned, cyrexlabs will have be providing a very comprehensive form of testing coming up in january. i and many of my colleagues are very excited about this.

  8. The genetic test via Enterolab was extremely helpful for me. It showed I had a gene for celiac disease from one parent and a gluten-sensitive gene from my other parent. I did the saliva test after having negative results from three parts of blood tests (my doctor only ordered 3 instead of all 5 parts) and having my endoscopy come back showing no damage. Within days of eating gluten free I started to feel better and my gastro-intestinal issues started to let up.
    Saliva testing will be so much easier!

  9. I am currently living in Sweden and they have an at home celiac test available here in the pharmacies for less that twenty dollars. I really hope the US can catch up soon.

  10. thanks to all who share info about gluton intolerence etc…I am a recent “self diagnose now gluten free person” and it is helping relieve many swollen painfull days… i experience due to RA and Lupus. I wish Rheumatologists would look at this connection … my last 4 Dr.s would not hear of any connection between my auto immune conditions and gluten intolerance. Anyone else share this experience?
    Happy New Year!!

  11. I took the Prometheus Labs saliva test and was not surprised when it came back positive as both my mother and brother are diagnosed celiacs. I have been gluten free for almost 2 years after multiple symptoms, the rash, intestinal problems, severe fatigue, borderline anemia, peripheal neuropathy, allergies and chemical sensitivities. Needless to say I have improved greatly staying gluten free. My blood test had come back negative but then I was not told I had to have been eating wheat when it was done after I had already been gluten free for a while. I had also been diagnosed with a wheat allergy so my Doctor said as long as your family has celiac disease you may as well go gluten free if you have to eliminate wheat. I took the saliva test because I suspect my son and possibly my daughter may also be gluten intolerant. I wanted to know if I had the genes and now will have them tested. They both had negative blood tests, but then so did I.
    One thing is bothering me about Prometheus Labs information on Celiac Disease. They mention only a few symptoms in their literature and leave out many of the common ones for adults. One symptom listed is short stature, but they do not state “in children”. My brother who is a diagnosed celiac is 6′ 6 ” tall. I am a female – and 6′ tall. My son was refusing to take the test because he says he couldn’t be as he is 6″7″ tall and the list of symptoms says short stature. I hope the Lab will revise and clarify their symptoms list as the current one is misleading.

  12. I have Hashimoto’s Disease (hypothroid) and recently learned it is an autoimmune disease agravated by gluten. Most Doctor’s (MDs) are not aware of this connnection but I have found good information on the Web. Thyroid medicine treats the symptons, am now hoping by going gluten free I can minimize the inflamation caused by gluten and give my body a chance to heal.

  13. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, yes, but it’s an underactive thyroid gland that is at fault; perhaps you feel better going GF, but it’s not likely to cure your thyroid. Thyroid replacement therapy (the medicine) is replacing the thyroid hormone that your body is not making in adequate quantities. Going GF will not replace the hormone, though it will reduce inflammation. I’d be very cautious about getting information from the Web. You’d be better off going to an endocrinologist for more solidly researched information.

  14. I was diagnosed with Celiac’s in May 2009. SInce then, I have been diagnosed with two additional autoimmune diseases: mysathenia gravis and Hashimoto’s disease. Next month, my neurologist will be testing me for additional autoimmune diseases. Although my doctors originally told me there is no correlation with my autoimmune diseases, they now are telling me differently. My feeling is there is so much unknown about autoimmune diseases that only time and more studies will tell what if any correlation there is between the different autoimmune diseases and how some people are affected. I can’t imagine that I am alone having multiple autoimmune disesases.

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