Autism and markers of celiac disease

By Jason Clevenger

Summary: In this study published by a group of international researchers, a group of 37 children with autism had blood and genetic testing for celiac disease. Blood samples were tested for antibodies to gliadin and transglutaminase, and genetic testing was performed to determine the presence of HLA-DQ2 or DQ8. The researchers found a subset of the children with autism had significant levels of antibody response that is related to celiac disease as compared to healthy control subjects, but this response was not associated with the presence of DQ2 or DQ8 genetic markers for celiac disease.

Conclusion: Some children with autism appear to have increased immune reactivity to gluten through a different mechanism than the one in celiac disease. This finding is a significant advance in the understanding of the relationship between the immune system and diseases such as autism. The authors suggest various possibilities for this phenomenon. They include increased intestinal permeability that leads to increased immune system exposure to partially digested gluten fragments, as well as immune system abnormalities that don’t require continuous exposure to gluten to maintain the antibody response.


[1] “Markers of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity in Children with Autism.”, Lau NM, Green PH, Taylor AK, Hellberg D, Ajamian M, Tan CZ, Kosofsky BE, Higgins JJ, Rajadhyaksha AM, Alaedini A, PLoS One 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e66155.

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