A common virus in infancy could trigger a life-long allergy to gluten and lead to celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder which affects one in 133 people in the United States, researchers said Thursday.
Celiac disease is caused when the body has an improper immune response — much like an allergy — to the protein gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley.
The disease damages the lining of the small intestine, and has no cure. It can only be treated by adopting a gluten-free diet.
But if Thursday’s study in the journal Science — based on experiments using mice — is confirmed in larger studies in people, researchers said a vaccine might be able to prevent celiac disease in the future.
“This study clearly shows that a virus that is not clinically symptomatic can still do bad things to the immune system and set the stage for an autoimmune disorder, and for celiac disease in particular,” said senior author Bana Jabri, director of research at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
The study found that intestinal bugs called reoviruses can make the immune system overreact to gluten, a protein that is already difficult to digest.
Given to mice, “one common human reovirus triggered an inflammatory immune response and the loss of oral tolerance to gluten, while another closely related but genetically different strain did not,” said the study.
The virus led to a surge in antibodies that may leave a “permanent mark on the immune system that sets the stage for a later autoimmune response to gluten.”
Most infants eat their first gluten-containing cereals around six months of age, a time when their immune systems are more vulnerable to viruses.
“During the first year of life, the immune system is still maturing, so for a child with a particular genetic background, getting a particular virus at that time can leave a kind of scar that then has long-term consequences,” Jabri said.
“That’s why we believe that once we have more studies, we may want to think about whether children at high risk of developing celiac disease should be vaccinated.”
Co-authors of the study were from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; the University of Naples, Italy; Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands; Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School; the Broad Institute at MIT; the University of Montreal; and Stanford University.
The information herein on "Symptom-Free Virus May Spark Gluten Allergy" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.
We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has reasonably attempted to provide supportive citations and identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez DC or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card