By Andrew Cook and Madolline Gourley

For sufferers of coeliac disease – a disease caused by an immune reaction to gluten protein – relief may soon come in the form of a vaccine

Scientists at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have been working on the vaccine for over 10 years.

So far, 34 people have been tested, and if future trials prove successful the vaccine will be available in 2017.

Dr Jason Tye-Din, a gastroenterologist from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, assisted in developing the vaccine and believes it will provide hope for coeliac sufferers.

“Essentially the coeliac vaccine is really trying to [tolerate] a person to the harmful effects of gluten and allow them to return to a normal gluten-containing diet,” Dr Tye-Din said.

Cathy Di Bella, executive officer of Queensland Coeliac Society, says while news of the vaccine is good, there is a major problem with the diagnosis process.

“At the moment, at least one in a 100 people have coeliac disease, but only 25 per cent of those people are diagnosed. If this vaccine can help to diagnose people, it’s going to stop a lot of long term health conditions,” she said.

Natarsha Billing, a salesperson at Flannery’s Natural Grocer, says she is concerned about how vaccine would be administered, and to who.

“I feel that people can actually help their coeliac disease with diet control, so vaccine may not really be needed unless you’re a real, true coeliac,” she said.