Pitt researchers believe they’ve uncovered a possible cause for celiac disease, an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine.
A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that infection with reovirus, a common, but harmless virus, can induce the immune system to overreact to gluten and trigger the development of celiac disease.
Researchers also found that patients with celiac disease had a much higher levels of antibodies against reoviruses than those without the disease
“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,” said study senior author Bana Jabri, M.D., Ph.D.
The study, published in the April 7 issue of Science implicates viruses in the development of autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, and raises the possibility that vaccines could one day be used to prevent these diseases.