A new study has found a link between childhood cases of gastro and coeliac disease.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, revealed children were more likely to be allergic to gluten later in life if they’d fallen ill with a common intestinal virus before the age of three.
“In this longitudinal study, we found that a higher frequency of enterovirus infections was associated with increased risk of coeliac disease,’ the study read.
Enterovirus infections include conjunctivitis, aseptic meningitis and hand, foot and mouth disease and gastroenteritis, also known as gastro.
Enteroviruses are contagious and practising good hygiene — such as washing hands, avoiding sharing cups and drink bottles and proper cough and sneeze etiquette — is the best protection.
Researchers from the department of paediatrics at the Ostfold Hospital Trust and Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Norway, followed 220 Norwegian children from the ages of three months to 12 years.
For the first three years, the children’s stool samples were tested for enteroviruses. Then from ages three to 12, they had regular blood tests to detect coeliac disease.
Twenty-five children were diagnosed with coeliac disease by an average of 10 years of age, and enteroviruses were found in 17 percent of the groups’ stool samples ahead of their diagnosis.
The findings confirm previous hypotheses that common gastrointestinal infections in childhood can damage parts of the gut that defended against coeliac disease.
“We believe … that enterovirus causes impaired barrier function, which in turn increases the risk of coeliac disease,” the researchers wrote.
The study suggested that vaccination could reduce the risk of developing the disease.
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