A NEW test has been discovered by researchers in Yorkshire which could help diagnosis of a group of diseases triggered by sensitivity to gluten.
Gluten ataxia is one of the most common types of the neurological condition that leads to balance and other problems and can go on to cause significant disability.
But it is one of the few which is treatable providing it is diagnosed early, with as many as two in five of all people with ataxia with no known cause estimated to be suffering from it.
Now a team of investigators from Sheffield and Cardiff has developed a new test for an antibody against a protein found in the nervous system which stimulates a response by the immune system when triggered by people eating gluten, causing ataxia.
They say their discovery could pave the way for a new test for gluten ataxia which is treated by excluding mainly wheat-based foods containing gluten from diets.
A consultant neurologist at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Prof Marios Hadjivassiliou, said: “The benefits of this could be enormous because as soon as gluten ataxia is detected patients can begin treatment through a gluten-free diet. Ultimately it could be the difference between ensuring the illness progresses no further to damage suffered to the balance centre of the brain.”
Former teacher Lorraine Walker, 51, of Barnsley, developing slurred speech, severe shaking and difficulty balancing while walking.
The mother-of-two said: “I thought I was going mad. Everything would appear to be better in the morning, but as the day went on, I got more and more tired – to the point where I could barely write. It was so bad I thought I’d had a stroke, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”
But tests by the team in Sheffield found she had gluten ataxia.
“Within three weeks I started a gluten-free diet and I noticed a big difference in my symptoms straight away,” she said.
“I can now walk without a stick unaided and I’m a lot less unsteady or wobbly on my feet. I obviously have bad days still, but the illness hasn’t progressed, and I don’t talk rubbish anymore.”