Celiac Disease Research Is gluten intolerance caused by viruses?
A gluten intolerance manifests itself especially in massive indigestion when taking so-called gluten (Gluten). The small intestinal mucous membrane shows a chronic inflammation in those affected, which also affects the absorption of nutrients from the diet. The inflammation is due to a misdirected reaction of the immune system. The latter is apparently caused by special viruses according to the current study results of an international research team.
The otherwise relatively harmless reoviruses, according to the scientists have a significant impact on the development of celiac disease (gluten intolerance). The research team led by Professor Bana Jabri of the University of Chicago showed in a special viral infection model that the reoviruses contribute to the misguided response of the immune system that occurs in contact with gluten. The researchers published their results in the journal "Science Translational Medicine".A celiac disease (gluten intolerance) requires the renunciation of gluten-containing foods. This is apparently triggered by a virus. (Image: Marco2811 / fotolia.com)
Reoviruses usually harmless
Reoviruses are relatively common, but most people are insensitive to infection. Health complaints are usually not expected, explain the scientists. However, the reoviruses and their genes show interactions with the host that can affect their long-term health, the researchers report. In their recent study, Prof. Jabri and colleagues looked at the effect of these viruses on the immune response to gluten and came to a very surprising result.
Certain viral strains lead to overreaction of the immune system
In a viral infection model on mice, the researchers tested two different reovirus strains. They found that initially a protective immunity was built up in both strains of virus. In addition, one viral strain showed an inflammatory immune response and the loss of gluten tolerance, while the other viral strain was not. Certain genetic variants of the intestinal viruses can trigger the overreaction of the immune system to gluten and initiate the development of celiac disease, report Prof. Jabri and colleagues.
Permanent marker in the immune system
The researchers found that celiac disease patients had much higher levels of reovirus antibodies than people without gluten intolerance. "The celiac disease patients, who had high levels of reovirus antibodies, also showed much higher levels of IRF1 gene expression - a transcriptional regulator that plays a key role in the loss of oral gluten tolerance," the researchers write. This indicates that the reovirus infection can leave a lasting mark in the immune system, which forms the basis for a subsequent autoimmune reaction to gluten.
Starting point of celiac disease in infancy?
According to the scientists, the infection with the reovirus can be an important initiating event for the development of celiac disease, although it can be assumed that this often happens as early as infancy. Children with immature immune systems are more susceptible to viral infections, and for those with a genetic predisposition to celiac disease, researchers suggest that the combination of reovirus infection and initial gluten intake may be the starting point for celiac disease development.
Insignificant virus with far-reaching effects
"The study clearly shows that a virus that is not clinically symptomatic can still have a negative impact on the immune system," says Prof. Jabri. The findings also provide a new approach to explaining celiac disease. In the case of reoviruses, the researchers claim that they are now "able to precisely define the virus factors responsible for the induction of the autoimmune response." Further studies are needed to investigate the clinical significance of reovirus infections in the development of celiac disease. (Fp)