The ITAMA project, funded from the INTERREG V-A Italia-Malta program, will be targeting communities coming from Sicily and Malta. Using a multidisciplinary approach, ITAMA aims to:

  • Raise awareness about the coeliac condition and study the disease in these two neighbouring countries sharing a very similar diet.
  • Improve the diagnostic process from the concept of test accuracy to utility of the test (predictive value), with the support of ICT tools, currently not available in the scientific community for this pathology.
  • The use of the AAc (Anti Actin IgA) test, already tested, performed in sequence with conventional tests, which preaches a compatible intestinal damage regardless of the symptoms, can increase the number of subjects to avoid biopsy. The verification of the diagnostic accuracy of the AAc test in a screening of over 20,000 primary school children in Malta and Sicily carries out a diagnostic algorithm for:
    1. the increase in the diagnosis of coeliac disease with decreased costs of the disease
    2. the increase in children diagnosed without biopsy, with a reduction in diagnostic costs
    3. the diagnostic accuracy of the PoC (Point of Care) test even if the test is negative
  • Define tools for technology transfer and/or process innovation in the healthcare sector.

As part of the project, a screening programme is going to be set up to detect the condition before the symptoms develop, allowing early treatment and a better quality of life for affected children. The programme is expected to run during 2019 and 2020 and will focus on children aged four to twelve years attending all schools of Malta and Gozo (state, church, independent). All participation costs are covered by the project, hence there are no costs involved either for the schools or the children being tested.

A few weeks before the test, the children will be given a take-home booklet containing information about coeliac disease, a questionnaire and a consent form. The questionnaire will include a set of questions related to symptoms and health history of the child or immediate relatives. Those children returning the completed questionnaire including their parents’ consent, will proceed to be tested. The screening test is a rapid result, point of care test requiring only a drop of blood from the child. This will be performed by the designated staff who will attend the school grounds on the day of the testing and involves a relatively painless procedure like the finger prick test used by diabetics. The results of the tests will be reviewed by a medical team from Mater Dei Hospital, and those children who test positive shall be recalled and offered further testing in hospital.

The project has been granted permission by the ethics board and all schools are highly encouraged to participate for the benefit of their own students. This project may pave the way for a future screening programme being set up to diagnose the condition at an early age and offer the necessary diet for a healthier, stronger generation.

ITAMA Project in the schools of Malta

Presentation for schools of Malta

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ITAMA project overview by Lead Partner

Presentation including the project overview by the lead partner

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Testing Procedure

An overview of the testing procedure by Dr. Ramon Bondin

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