Enteric viral infection in childhood and coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a common immune condition where susceptible individuals develop inflammation of the gut in response to gluten, a protein in wheat. Whilst genetics play an important role in the development of coeliac disease, there is evidence that an environmental trigger is required for coeliac disease to develop. Circumstantial evidence has suggested that viral infections in childhood could be that trigger, but definitive proof remains elusive. A recent study has suggested that reovirus, a virus affecting the gut that generally causes no symptoms, can trigger a condition like coeliac disease in mice under experimental conditions, however it remains unclear if this infection is associated with coeliac disease in humans. The discovery of infections that can trigger coeliac disease could have a profound impact on the prevention of the development of coeliac disease, as well as on the prevention of diseases associated with it, such as Type 1 Diabetes.

We will test the association between reovirus, along with a number of other viral infections that affect the gut, and the development of coeliac disease by using stored samples from a recent study of diagnostic methods of coeliac disease in children. This large, well-described, cohort of children with and without coeliac disease provides an ideal group in which to test for an association between viral infection and coeliac disease. We will perform tests to measure antibody responses to these viruses in children with and without coeliac disease.