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Virus link to gluten intolerance

Monday March 8th, 2010

Viral infections may lie behind the development of wheat intolerance disease, researchers have reported.

Finnish researchers have set out to discover more about intolerance to gluten - known as coeliac disease - as the disease is now afflicting two in every hundred people in the country.

They have identified genes linked to the condition - but say the genes are so common they cannot explain why people develop the disease.

They are to report in the journal Nature Genetics that the genes are closely linked to the human immune system.

According to researcher Päivi Saavalainen, of the Academy of Finland, Helsinki, infection with viruses is one possible explanation for the genes being activated.

He said: "Some of the genes we have identified are linked with human immune defence against viruses.

"This may indicate that virus infections may be connected in some way with the onset of gluten intolerance."

Professor Markku Mäki, also of the Academy, says the rate of disease reaches 2.7 per cent in the elderly.

* A study reported in Nature Genetics last night identifies a gene for a severe food allergy that afflicts children.

Eosinophilic oesophagitis leads to swelling in the gullet, causing weight loss and swallowing difficulties. Children with the condition are often found to be allergic to many foods.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, say they have found a gene which is a "plausible candidate" and has already been linked to asthma and skin disease.

The gene TSLP is found in chromosome 5.

Researcher Dr Jonathan Spergel said he hoped the discovery would lead to new treatments.

He said: "Eosinophilic oesophagitis is a highly allergic disease, and one that is rapidly expanding."

Common variants at 5q22 associate with pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis," Nature Genetics

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Diet & Food | Europe | Flu & Viruses | Genetics | North America

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