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For those of us with Celiac Disease, the lack of research into the disease has always been frustrating.
Now, it looks like all of that is changing.
NPR released an article yesterday that cites a recent study which makes the claim that a specific kind of common infection can cause Celiac Disease.
The study, conducted on mice, found that when infected with the reovirus and fed gluten, the mice develop "an immunological response against gluten that mimics the features of humans with Celiac Disease".
Researcher's followed up this discovery with the second phase of research that utilized human subjects. The researcher's analyzed the antibody levels to certain viruses in those with Celiac Disease.
They found that those with Celiac Disease have significantly higher levels of reovirus antibodies than their non-celiac counterparts.
The Researcher's concluded the study with the hope that a vaccination could be developed for the reovirus which they believe may help prevent Celiac Disease in children.
My Opinion On The Research
The University of Chicago has an incredible reputation when it comes to Celiac Disease research and information. They are, in fact, the ones who conducted the above study.
I want to reiterate that I respect the hell out of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
I also believe that the study makes some very good points regarding how Celiac Disease can be "turned on" at any given point in an individual's life.
However, someone needs to be the devil's advocate and I have 2 grievances against the above study.
1. The mice were genetically engineered by the researchers to be "more susceptible to Celiac Disease"
I was unable to find how exactly the researcher's managed to do this, leaving me with one question.
What does "more susceptible" actually mean? Were the researcher's altering a single gene or were they making significant changes that were unlikely to be replicated in nature.
The amount of gluten fed to the mice wasn't mentioned either. If the researchers were feeding these mice an incomprehensible amount of gluten, it would be reasonable to expect that they would develop a resistance to it. Especially since the Gliadin that is found in wheat is designed specifically to prevent animals like mice from feeding on it.
2. There has been a long-standing belief in the Gluten-Free Community that Celiac Disease can be brought on by any sudden change to the body (I.E. pregnancy, infection, illness, college, moving, etc.).
If this belief holds true, then wouldn't it be possible that any kind of infection (reovirus or not) could cause that genetic switch to flip?
The researcher's also explained in the study that the reovirus is very common and contracted by most American's during their childhood.
With the reovirus being so common, could it be that it is just the most common trigger which is why those with Celiac Disease have higher antibodies? Or maybe since those with Celiac Disease have weakened immune systems we contract the reovirus more easily and frequently?
Keep in mind, I don't know answers to any of these questions I'm asking. I just think it is important that they are asked.
I think that anyone with Celiac Disease should be excited and looking forward to the future of Celiac Disease research. The researcher's are asking the right questions and the studies always provide excellent answers, even if those answers raise more questions themselves!