Scientists working on a study involving mice say they have identified a link between celiac disease and a common virus.
Infection with the common intestinal viruses can trigger immune system responses that lead to attacks on harmless food molecules, such as gluten, according to the research team at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“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,” the study’s lead author Dr. Bana Jabri said in a press release.
The researchers used two different strains of the reovirus in mice to show how the immune system responds to them. One common human reovirus caused a reaction in the animals, resulting in the loss of tolerance to gluten, while the other strain did not.
These findings, published on April 7 in the journal Science, could change the way celiac disease is treated. Celiac disease can only be managed through eliminating gluten from your diet.
“We have been studying reovirus for some time, and we were surprised by the discovery of a potential link between reovirus and celiac disease,” said Dr. Terence Dermody, co-author of the study, in a press release. “We are now in a position to precisely define the viral factors responsible for the induction of the autoimmune response.”
More studies are needed to understand the implications in people with celiac disease.
Read the study here.