Celiac Disease Raises Tuberculosis Risk

The link could be lowered vitamin D intake, researchers say

TUESDAY, Oct. 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People with celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, are about four times more likely to develop active tuberculosis infection than other people, new research shows.

In people with gluten intolerance, an exaggerated immune response to the gluten found in wheat, barley and rye causes chronic inflammation of the small bowel. Gluten intolerance affects about one percent of the population and has been linked to several autoimmune diseases, as well as with pregnancy complications and increased risk of lymph gland cancer.

In this study, researchers at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden compared 14,335 people with gluten intolerance to 70,000 people without the condition.

Reporting online in the journal Thorax, they concluded that people diagnosed with celiac disease in adulthood had nearly four times the risk of active TB infection, while those diagnosed as children had triple the risk.

The study also found that a prior diagnosis of TB nearly doubled the risk of celiac disease.

The association between gluten intolerance and TB may be due to poor intake of vitamin D and calcium, caused by intestinal malabsorption and the nutritional deficiencies of a gluten-free diet, in people with celiac disease, the researchers said. Vitamin D plays an important role in immune system response against TB infection.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about celiac disease.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Updated on October 17, 2006

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