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May 6, 2014

Gluten-Degrading Bacteria and Celiac Disease

By Kanaaz Pereira, Connect Moderator, @kanaazpereira

Joseph Murray, M. D., discusses a recently published article in PLoS One about enzymes present in the mouth that might break down gluten. The authors of the study speculate that the bacterial enzymes present may be able to detoxify gluten, making it safer for individuals with celiac disease.

When humans eat gluten, the bacteria present in their mouths also eat gluten. This study looks at the process of digestion in the mouth. Bacteria evolves to eat what individuals eat. The researchers looked for enzymes the bacteria have that might break down gluten, and did find bacterial enzymes present that were effective at breaking down gluten. They speculate that the bacteria may have a role in making gluten safer, even detoxify it. This presents the opportunity for bacterial enzymes to be developed as a way to detoxify gluten in foods for patients with celiac disease. This study is an example of taking advantage of nature and of how individuals can cooperate with the bacteria living in us. There will be more work coming forward on the microbiome, which is the bacteria that live in, on, and with humans.

Read the full study online here.

For more information on celiac disease, visit

Dr. Murray is a gastroenterologist and celiac disease expert at Mayo Clinic.

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