Early-Life Infections May Be a Risk Factor for Celiac Disease in Childhood | BeyondCeliac.org
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Early-Life Infections May Be a Risk Factor for Celiac Disease in Childhood

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According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, children who have frequent infections in their first 18 months of life have an increased risk of later developing celiac disease.‚Äč

One of the most popular questions that both patients and scientists ask is, “Why does celiac disease develop?” We know that it’s a complex disease whose development has several factors at play, including environmental, immune and genetic factors. While we know that celiac disease is an autoimmune disease and its genetics account for an estimated 40% of the disease risk, researchers have multiple theories when it comes to how the environment plays a role. Some popular theories have included the role of breastfeeding, the timing of gluten introduction and a history of childhood infections. Today, a new study is helping the field learn more about this last risk factor.

About the study:

According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, children who have frequent infections in their first 18 months of life have an increased risk of later developing celiac disease.

Research and population studies have shown that children who are admitted to the hospital for an infection are at higher risk for developing celiac disease. It remains unclear whether this link is related to the infection itself, or whether the hospital admission leads to an increased chance of being tested for celiac disease.

In a current study, 72,921 children in Norway were followed with repeated questionnaires on the number and types of infections that occurred in the first 18 months of life. Out of these children, the individuals who later developed celiac disease were identified through parental questionnaires and a patient registry.

Results:

  • 581 children, or 0.8 percent of the study participants, had developed celiac disease after an average of 8.5 years.

  • Children with 10 or more infections in their first 18th months of life had a 30 percent increased relative risk of developing celiac disease, as compared to children with fewer than 5 infections.

  • Risk for developing celiac disease was similar in children who developed infections between 0 and 6 months, compared to children who developed infections between 6 and 18 months.

  • Risk for developing celiac disease was similar in children who had repeated respiratory infections, compared to children who had repeated gastrointestinal infections.

What this means:

Early-life infections may affect the risk for developing celiac disease in children, and this can be a clue into finding out what environmental factors trigger the disease. Determining what environmental factors may trigger the disease to begin is a very important piece in developing preventive measures in the future.

You can read more here.

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