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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Infections in Early Life Associated with Increased Risk for Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Can early childhood infections lead to celiac disease?


    Caption: Can early infections in infants lead to celiac disease? Photo: CC--CaptMikey

    Celiac.com 07/21/2017 - In previous studies, a team of scientists led by Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler had already shown an association between infections in early childhood and the development of type 1 diabetes. In that study, the researchers saw the highest risk for type 1 diabetes in children who experienced repeated respiratory infections in the first six months of life.

    Recently, Zeigler and another team of colleagues from the Institute for Diabetes Research at Helmholtz Zentrum München, a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), set out to determine whether infections during infancy are associated with increased risk for celiac disease later on.

    Their current study shows that the risk of developing celiac disease is particularly high when gastrointestinal tract infections occur during the first year of life.

    To a lesser extent, an increased disease risk was also seen in connection with early respiratory tract infections. The risk seems to be particularly high for people who experience repeated gastrointestinal infections in the first year of life.

    Whether the connections with early infections and later celiac risk are causal or are based on changes in the microbiome or specific immune responses is not clear from the data, said first author Dr. Andreas Beyerlein.

    "However," Beyerlein added, "it seems that the increased risk of celiac disease is associated with a permanent inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract in early childhood and is not caused by a specific viral or bacterial pathogen."

    The team reached their conclusion after analyzing fully anonymized data provided by the Bavarian Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Bayern) of 295,420 children who were born between 2005 and 2007.

    Medically attended infections from birth until a median age of 8.5 years were considered in the analysis. A total of 853 children developed gluten intolerance, equivalent to 0.3 percent.

    Their results appear in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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    I always wondered about putting infants on heavy antibiotics. They say infections, perhaps it what they use to treat the infection. My daughter aspirated and was put in the neonatal unit for pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics for a week. She always had stomach issues but no body addressed celiacs 16 years ago. Often I have wondered about the effects these meds would have. She is now 19 and highly sensitive and gets ill very easily. Has anyone studied the effects of the antibiotics?

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    I was fine until I contracted West Nile Meningitis in 2012. From then on things went downhill. I have even heard of a pregnancy resulting in celiac disease. It´s my unprofessional opinion that when the immune system is compromised other complications can occur.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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