(HealthDay News) — A common human intestinal reovirus may trigger some cases of celiac disease, according to a study published in the April 7 issue of Science.

Investigators found that when mice were infected with particular strains of a common human intestinal reovirus, their immune system could not tolerate gluten. Patients with celiac disease also had much higher levels of antibodies against reoviruses than those without the autoimmune disease, the researchers said.

The team added that the findings provide further evidence that viruses may play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, and they suggest that vaccines might help prevent such diseases.

“During the first year of life, the immune system is still maturing, so for a child with a particular genetic background, getting a particular virus at that time can leave a kind of scar that then has long-term consequences,” senior author Bana Jabri, M.D., director of research at the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center, said in a university news release. “That’s why we believe that once we have more studies, we may want to think about whether children at high risk of developing celiac disease should be vaccinated.”

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