Celiac Disease Testing at Home (Or the Office)
[Update! Dr. Dan Leffler is hosting a LIVE Teleseminar about this research study on Monday, July 25th, 3-5 p.m. ET. Dr. Leffler will also talk about the pharmacist's role in distributing kits and educating consumers. Pharmacists are encouraged to register at www.pharmacybusinessceliacwebinar.com. While you're at it, learn more about gluten in medications and NFCA's GREAT Pharmacists training program on CeliacCentral.org.]
I don’t care for needles, which is why I was thrilled when our friends at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) asked us to try out the Biocard fingerprick test kit. The at-home test is part of a research study Dr. Dan Leffler, Director of Clinical Research for The Celiac Center at BIDMC, and his team are conducting.
“While not currently approved by the FDA, these tests are still being researched as it is both imperative and necessary to explore any new possibilities for increasing celiac diagnoses in the U.S.,” said Dr. Leffler, noting the importance of this study.
My daughter has celiac disease, and our family’s trusted clinician, Dr. Ritu Verma at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recommends screening every 3 years for first degree relatives who have the celiac gene. For me, it was about time for a follow-up antibody test, so I volunteered.
When the kit arrived, the staff and I gathered around and disassembled the package. I admit that the instructions were a little difficult to understand (especially because we had a reproduced copy and it was hard to see the photos). But once we understood the process, it was simple as could be.
You place the small, plastic device on your finger and release the trigger. There was a startling pinch, and then a numb feeling that lasted longer than I expected. The kit includes a small tube in which to collect the blood sample, which is then mixed with a solution and dropped onto a test strip that will display a control line. If antibodies are present, the control line will be joined by an additional line after 10 minutes.
While I am thankful that I have access to the most amazing gluten-free food (Shout out to Main Line Baking Company, which made Nancy’s delicious birthday cake this month!), I was still relieved when the 10 minutes passed and only one line appeared on the strip.
I thought a lot in those 10 minutes about what it would be like for someone who doesn’t know anything about celiac disease to see a second line appear on the test strip. What kind of educational materials would be important to include in such a kit to empower possible celiac patients? Getting the right information is critical, but what’s the best way to share it?
What are your thoughts on this form of testing? Do you think self-diagnosis would increase if kits like this were readily available, and is that a concern? Weigh in with your comments below.