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Harmless Virus Key To Understanding How Celiac Disease Develops

Update Date: Apr 08, 2017 11:13 AM EDT

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine and the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center has announced that a common reovirus could be the key to understanding how the celiac disease develops in humans.

 The researchers believe that the infection could stem from exposure to a strain of reovirus. The reovirus is very harmless that people do not know that they are already infected with it. They theorized that if the first exposure to gluten occurs during an infection of this virus, the human body is tricked into activating the immune system to attack the food protein as if it were a harmful pathogen, the ABC reported.

Knowing and understanding how the celiac disease develops will greatly help the 3 million Americans who have it. Celiac disease is characterized as an autoimmune disease that can trigger the body to mount an immune response against ingested gluten. The immune response is very intense that it damages the small intestines and causes the patient to suffer diarrhea, bloating, and vomiting.

The result of the study is a shift from other studies that focus on celiac disease as a genetic disorder. The researchers used two different strains of the virus and tested them on mice which were engineered to have the celiac disease-causing gene.

The type 1 Lang strain was the only one that triggered the condition in mice. They were surprised to find out that the immune response triggered by the strain only happens when the molecule Interferon regulatory factor 1 was present. This same molecule was particularly high in people who had celiac disease, the Science Alert reported.

Understanding how the celiac disease develops is important in the development of future treatments which may include a vaccine for celiac disease. If the study successfully proves the connection, this could help understand the triggers of other autoimmune conditions and food allergies.

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