Early infection with a seemingly innocuous virus may trigger an autoimmune response that could lead to later development of celiac disease, according to a new study that suggests the discovery could result in the creation of a vaccine against the increasingly common disease.
The new study, titled “Reovirus infection triggers inflammatory responses to dietary antigens and development of celiac disease,” published in Science suggests that the relatively common reovirus may be in part to blame for celiac virus, but researchers believe a prophylactic vaccine could possibly be developed for at-risk individuals.
According to the study, celiac disease results from a specific autoimmune reaction certain individuals have to the peptides in dietary gluten. Increased incidence over the years has suggested that there may be an environmental link in some cases, and infection by several virus types—particularly the reovirus—have been associated with a sort of scarring in the immune system that may lead to later development of celiac disease.
The reovirus typically doesn’t cause significant illness on its own, but researchers found that the individuals they studied with celiac disease had significantly higher antireovirus antibody titers that those without celiac disease, as well as elevated levels of interferon regulatory factor 1—a protein that induces an adaptive immune response and is associated with an increased risk of celiac disease.
Reovirus, and possibly others, were therefore found to elicit proinflammatory responses that could affect immune system homestasis and oral tolerance of food antigens including gluten, according to the report.