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Kids Who've Had Gastro Are More Likely To Suffer Coeliac Disease, 15 Year Study Finds

A new study has found a link between childhood cases of gastro and coeliac disease.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, this week revealed children were more likely to be allergic to gluten later in life if they'd fallen ill with a common intestinal virus before the age of three.

"In this longitudinal study, we found that a higher frequency of enterovirus infections was associated with increased risk of coeliac disease,' the study read.

Enterovirus infections include conjunctivitis, aseptic meningitis and hand, foot and mouth disease and gastroenteritis, also known as gastro.

Enteroviruses are contagious and practising good hygiene -- such as washing hands, avoiding sharing cups and drink bottles and proper cough and sneeze etiquette -- is the best protection.

Common gastrointestinal infections in childhood can damage parts of the gut that defended against coeliac disease. Image: Getty.

Researchers from the department of paediatrics at the Ostfold Hospital Trust and Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Norway, followed 220 Norwegian children from the ages of three months to 12 years.

For the first three years, the children's stool samples were tested for enteroviruses. Then from ages three to 12, they had regular blood tests to detect coeliac disease.

Twenty-five children were diagnosed with coeliac disease by an average of 10 years of age, and enteroviruses were found in 17 percent of the groups' stool samples ahead of their diagnosis.

The findings confirm previous hypotheses that common gastrointestinal infections in childhood can damage parts of the gut that defended against coeliac disease.

READ MORE: Gluten-Free Vaccine Trial Gives New Hope To Coeliacs

"We believe ... that enterovirus causes impaired barrier function, which in turn increases the risk of coeliac disease," the researchers wrote.

The study suggested that vaccination could reduce the risk of developing the disease.

The Road Ahead For Coeliac Sufferers

Around one in 70 Australians suffer from coeliac disease, a condition which causes the immune system to react abnormally to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Symptoms include anaemia, weight loss, gut troubles, fatigue and nausea and children as young as six months can be diagnosed with the condition, yet 80 percent of people don't know they have it.

There may be hope ahead with phase two of a world-first clinical trial getting underway back in October 2018, to test a vaccine scientists hope will change the lives of coeliac sufferers for good.

Coeliacs are unable to eat wheat, barley and rye. Image: Getty.

The Nexvax2 vaccine is designed to reprogram the cells which trigger the immune system's abnormal toxic response to gluten -- which could allow the 160,000 Australians with coeliac disease to leave their strict lifelong gluten-free diets behind.

"Our members and many thousands of Australians with coeliac disease have been looking forward to the announcement of the Phase 2 trial," President of Coeliac Australia Michael Bell said in a statement at the time.

"Many have been following the development of Nexvax2 for more than a decade and are hopeful the results will take us one step closer to an effective treatment for coeliac disease."

Feature image: Getty.