Researchers at the Academy of Finland's Research Programme on Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA) have found that the genes supposed to cause gluten intolerance (coeliac disease) are closely connected to the human immune defense system.
Virus infections as common as ear, nose, sore throat, sinusitis, common cold and throat infections can trigger conditions of gluten intolerance, claimed the study.
The study looked at thousands of people suffering from the disease, collecting data from nine unique populations.
Academy Research Fellow Päivi Saavalainen, who conducted the research into the hereditary risk factors for gluten intolerance, 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."
Though these genes are only one of the several factors behind gluten intolerance, their understanding can help scientists develop medicines for the incurable disease, bringing relief to the millions of patients sustaining on a lifelong gluten-free diet.
The research would soon be published in the journal “Nature Genetics”.
Gluten intolerance is a condition of extreme sensitivity towards gluten, which is commonly found in wheat, rice, and barley.
An inherited disease, it causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine besides leading to nutriment absorption problems.
The disease can lead to infertility, osteoporosis, and extreme weight loss, though the patients are also at high risk of contracting diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and cancers.
A gluten-free diet devoid of all wheat products as well as bread, biscuits, ice-cream, noodles, and other processed foods is generally prescribed to the patients of gluten intolerance by doctors.
Coeliac cases on the rise in India
Researchers have determined that in the last few years there has been an alarming increase in the number of coeliac patients in the nation.
R. Kochhar, additional professor, department of gastroenterology, PGI, said, “celiac disease is a genetic disorder, which is being increasingly diagnosed in patients in India even though the largest number of victims are in Europe followed by United States.”