Celiac disease, which affects nearly six to eight million people in India, is more common than is recognised and remains under-reported in the country, said an expert.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease that occurs because of ingestion of a protein, called gluten, which is present in the cereals such as wheat and barley.
“The biggest impediment in prevention and treatment of Celiac disease is the limited awareness about it and its causes,” Govind Makharia, Professor (Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said in a statment on Friday.
As “India’s preparedness towards the emerging epidemic of this disease is minimal, the need of the hour is both research and creating awareness about the condition. Overall, Celiac disease has now become a disease of public health importance,” Makharia added.
While the disease affects almost 0.7 per cent of the world’s population, 1 in 100 (1.04 per cent) Indians are affected by the disease, according to a study conducted by the AIIMS in 2011 on 2879 subjects.
Another study, including 23,000 apparently healthy subjects, observed that 0.6 per cent (1 in 160) suffered Celiac disease. It was found to be more common in northern India (1.2 per cent; 1 in 90), followed by north-east India (0.8 per cent; 1 in 130). The disease was much less common in south (0.1 per cent; 1 in 1000).
In a bid to discuss and explore the best ways to address the challenges faced by patients with Celiac disease, the AIIMS in association with the Indian Society of Gastroenterology (ISG), International Society for the Study of Celiac Disease (ISSCD), and the Asia-Pacific Association of Gastroenterology (APAGE) has organised the 17th International Celiac Disease Symposium (ICDS) beginning Friday, which will continue till Septemeber 10.
Delegates from 27 different countries including US, Europe, Africa and Asia are expected to participate in the symposium.