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Surprising link between celiac disease and gut bacteria discovered

Lana Bandoim's picture

Researchers continue to study the link between celiac disease and gut bacteria. Dr. Elena Verdu, who is part of the McMaster’s Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, is studying the role of gut bacteria. Although some bacteria can be beneficial, she has discovered that others may be associated with celiac disease and may be responsible for the growing number of people who are diagnosed with this disorder.


Celiac disease may have a hereditary feature, but researchers have argued that genetics are not enough to explain why some people develop the condition. Now, new studies are revealing more information about the involvement of gut bacteria. The autoimmune disorder may be more complicated than previously suspected.

Dr. Elena Verdu and the McMaster’s Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute are studying how bacteria may be involved in the development, progression and other stages of celiac disease. The researchers believe that some gut bacteria are responding negatively to gluten, and this may be partially responsible for the development of the disease. This supports the idea that genes are not the only component that should be examined. Dr. Verdu hopes the research provides more solutions for patients, but she reiterates that the gluten-free diet is still important.

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According to the New York Times: “Years ago, Dr. Sanz noted that a group of bacteria native to the intestine known as bifidobacteria were relatively depleted in children with celiac disease compared with healthy controls. Other microbes, including native E. coli strains, were overly abundant and oddly virulent. In a test tube, she found that those E. coli amplified the inflammatory response of human intestinal cells to gluten. But bifidobacteria switched the response from inflammation to tolerance.”

Researchers are aware that a healthy gut with good bacteria is important for digestive health. However, it is clear that some bacteria are affecting people in more ways than previously understood. Dr. Elena Verdu and others plan to continue to research and analyze the role of bacteria in celiac disease.

Read more about celiac disease:
Doctors ignore proper celiac disease diagnosis and care
Celiac disease tripled in children in last 20 years