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Can Viruses Trigger Celiac Disease?


Certain stomach viruses sharply increase celiac disease risk. Photo: CC--Vincent Tcheng Chang

Celiac.com 07/27/2016 - Celiac disease is an immune-based disorder triggered by an adverse immune reaction to gluten proteins in genetically susceptible people. A new study shows that certain viral diseases may increase celiac risk, and confirms a link between intestinal viral infections and celiac disease.

Reinhard Hinterleitner earned his PhD from the Medical University of Innsbruck in molecular cell biology and oncology at the group of Gottfried Baier at the Department of Medical Genetics, Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology. He is currently doing postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago as part of an Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship.

Dr. Hinterleitner looked at blood samples and 150 small-intestine biopsies from celiac patients and compared them with those of a healthy control group. He found that intestinal viruses can trigger a sort of long-term false alarm in celiac patients by upsetting the small intestine and transforming regulatory T lymphocytes into pro-inflammatory T lymphocytes.

"The dendritic cells are also alerted by the infection. If gluten...is consumed at the same time as a viral infection occurs, the already alerted dendritic cells also present gluten antigens to the T lymphocytes," said Dr. Hinterleitner.

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This can result in the transmission of incorrect information, and can trigger an inflammatory response in T lymphocytes that attacks both the virus and the gluten. They have seen as much in genetically engineered celiac mouse models, wherein a reoviral infection of the small intestine of mice triggers clinical symptoms similar to those experienced by celiac patients who consume gluten.

This might also explain why infants who have already had a rotavirus infection are more likely to develop celiac disease. Because if an infant is suffering from a viral infection at the same time, the first intake of gluten, which is supposed to establish oral tolerance to gluten, might in fact have the opposite effect.

If this is true, early vaccination against intestinal viruses such as rota- and reovirus in early childhood might reduce the incidence of celiac disease.

They estimate that introducing gluten at the same time as intestinal virus infection results in a long-term loss of oral tolerance to gluten in the 20 percent of the population with the genetic predisposition for celiac disease, especially in patients who respond more strongly to virus infections.

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1 Response:

 
B. Hoerner
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said this on
03 Aug 2016 4:58:30 AM PDT
Very interesting article. At 59 I developed celiac disease. Immediately prior to having symptoms associated with celiac disease, I had what my doctors treated as a stomach virus-- one that just wouldn't go away. Fortunately it only took six months for doctors to figure out what was wrong. Within days of diet modification I was better!




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So just to clarify had not consumed any gluten for about 4 days before testing. I was assured by my allergist that it wouldn't affect the test. But what was alarming was that she retested my food allergies (my most recent reaction was two weeks ago) and every food allergy I have came back negative. I don't understand how that is possible. These food allergies developed when I was 20 and I am almost 24 now.

Thanks! You too! I have learned from this experience to take charge of my own health. It's nice at least that we can try the gluten-free treatment without a firm diagnosis or a doctor confirming the disease. I've also felt some of the gluten withdrawal symptoms, and my stomach pain ebbs and flows, but I'm determined to stick with the gluten-free diet to see what a difference it makes. Gemini, thank you! This was really validating and useful for me to hear. I've felt so confused through this process and just want some answers. If the biopsy results do come back negative, I'm going to follow your advice and do the gluten-free diet with repeat blood testing after a while. If they come back positive, well, then I'll have my answer. I'm supposed to get them back next week.

I have celiac and eosinaphalic esophagitis. I was put on a steroid inhaler recently. I use it like an inhaler but swallow the air instead of breathing it in. You may want to look into EOE and it's relationship to celiac. Just a thought. My swallowing and celiac seem to be related.

You have eat gluten every single day until after testing. And the celiac blood test is supposed to be done as well.

If I was the big guy, there's no way I would have to wait 3 and a half weeks for a test lol. My GI doc never recommended the antibody test. He said doing it with the scope was the only sure way to know. Does anybody know if I should eat a little gluten the day before my test to see if I will get an accurate enough test? Or will it not matter, once the damage is done it's done?