Medicine

A symptom-free virus may spark allergy to gluten

A symptom-free virus may spark allergy to gluten

Common virus was found to trigger Celiac disease, a food reaction against gluten.

A study conducted by researchers from the Chicago University and the Pittsburgh University's School Of Medicine reveals that reoviruses trigger the immune system response to gluten, which causes celiac disease.

"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 study author Dr. Bana Jabri of the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

The celiac disease causes significant damages to the lining of the small intestine, and now has no cure.

An estimated 40 percent of the population have the genes that predispose them to celiac disease, but while 95 percent of people eat gluten, only 1 percent end up developing the disorder, said Dr. Paul Green, director of the Celiac Center at Columbia University in NY.

It has generally been thought that celiac disease, a condition where the immune system treats gluten as a toxin and produces antibodies to fight against it, is a genetic disease.

Only 17 percent of those believed to have celiac disease have been diagnosed. This is evident from the growth in gluten-free food sales and most recently, the introduction of gluten-free dining halls on two college campuses.

This creates a higher possibility for the immune system to generate an inappropriate response to it even in people who do not have the celiac condition.

Most infants eat their first gluten-containing cereals around six months of age, a time when their immune systems are more vulnerable to viruses.

Normally, a regulatory immune response blocks inflammation to dietary antigens. By using a human strain, they managed to show its connection to the celiac disease in mice tests. Moreover, this strain did not provoke an immune response. This caused them to suffer inflammation specific to celiac disease.

A usually harmless virus may play a role in triggering celiac disease, a new study in mice suggests.

In the study, researchers also investigated whether there was a defining characteristic for reovirus in celiac disease.

The researchers also looked at patients with celiacs disease and found they had much higher levels of antibodies against reoviruses than those without the disease. While 40 per cent of people in the U.S. seem to have a genetic predisposition to coeliac disease, only 3 per cent of the population - around 3 million people - have the condition. One that suggests that autoimmune diseases may also be caused by outside pathogens and their influence on the body.

If it's true that the virus can trigger celiac disease, then young children who carry the risk genes for celiac could be vaccinated against Reovirus. Gluten, of course, is a key component of wheat, rye, barley, and other grains. This could protect children from conditions like the celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders. If it is, then a reovirus vaccine could be developed for at-risk children, which could potentially block the development of celiac disease, "and that would be pretty fantastic", Dermody says.


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