Celiac Disease Patients' Family at Greater Risk for Autoimmune Diseases?

Spouses and first-degree relatives of patients afflicted with celiac disease were found to be at greater risk for non-celiac autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Spouses and first-degree relatives of patients afflicted with celiac disease were found to be at greater risk for non-celiac autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Published in the latest issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the study was led by Louise Emilsson, MD, PhD, Oslo University and Primary Care Research Unit, Värmlands Nysäter.

To assess the risk of non-celiac autoimmune disease (Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ulcerative colitis), the research team analyzed records from more than 84,000 first-degree relatives and spouses of patients with celiac disease, as well as 430,942 controls.

During the follow-up period of (median 10.8 years), 4.3% of the first-degree relatives of patients with celiac disease — compared to the 3.3% of the control group – were found to have developed a non-celiac autoimmune disease.

Researchers reported the most common non-celiac autoimmune diseases were systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and sarcoidosis.

The authors noted the increased risk for autoimmune disease could likely be attributed to environmental factors and genetics. Additionally, it was possible that spouses share microbiome characteristics with one another, potentially impacting the development of other autoimmune diseases.

Another interesting point was that physicians who are aware of patients with celiac disease are already more apt to investigate their family members for autoimmunity.

“The prevalence of celiac disease in first-degree relatives of individuals with celiac is approximately 10%. Despite these findings, little is known about the risk of non-celiac autoimmune disease in these individuals. We found convincing results that close relatives are also at risk for these conditions, but more surprisingly, we found that spouses may also be at risk,” Emilsson said.