GRANADA, Spain, March 11 (UPI) -- A relatively non-invasive finger prick test cold help doctors diagnose celiac disease in young children with minor or no symptoms, according to researchers in Spain.
The new method could prevent doctors from drawing blood from children with symptoms of the disease, a genetic intolerance to gluten causing intestinal and other health problems.
The drop of blood is put in a device that analyzes it for auto-antibodies in capillary blood that indicate the disease. A pink line appears on the device if the antibodies are present in a sample, similar to a pregnancy test, researchers said.
In a study testing the method, published in the journal Pediatric Research, researchers recruited 198 children between the ages of 2 and 4, all of whom presented nearly imperceptible symptoms, or none at all, to be tested using the finger-prick method.
Among the children, six tested positive, and the researchers confirmed a diagnosis using normal blood draws.
Researchers said testing children early, regardless of symptoms, could prevent more expensive procedures and tests later, which they said is worth it because the finger-prick test takes about 10 minutes and costs less than $14.
"This kind of diagnostic method in the family doctor's or the pediatrician's office would allow to find cases of celiac disease not diagnosed due to its atypical symptomatology, and to avoid unnecessary procedures, blood extractions or patient referral to specialized doctors," said Maria Vega Almazán, a researcher at the University of Granada, in a press release.