20,000 Maltese School Children Being Tested for Coeliac Disease

A simple non-invasive test is being currently carried out in primary and secondary schools in Malta and Gozo. This test aims to detect coeliac disease amongst some 20,000 school children.

If detected in its early stages, coeliac disease can be treated in an effective manner.

This nation-wide test programme is being carried out as part of the ITALIA-MALIA programme, being currently held in collaboration with the Universities of Messina and Palermo, and is being brought into fruition following statistics that the highest cases of this condition are in fact, in Malta and Sicily.

This test is being carried out in the best interest of children and parents are encouraged to fill in a questionnaire being currently distributed together with a consent certificate, which both need to be signed and given back to the respective schools. Children are then tested by means of the finger-prick method.

If the test proves positive, then children will be provided with a specific diet without food items or ingredients which target an adverse reaction. All the information will be processed by Mater Dei Hospital.

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten. This damages your gut (small intestine) so you are unable to take in nutrients.

Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating.

Coeliac disease is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten, which is a dietary protein found in 3 types of cereal:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye

Gluten is found in any food that contains those cereals, including:

  • pasta
  • cakes
  • breakfast cereals
  • most types of bread
  • certain types of sauces
  • some ready meals

In addition, most beers are made from barley.


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