Researchers believe respiratory infections in early childhood may play a role in increasing the risk of developing celiac disease, an autoimmune disease related to the consumption of gluten.

The study’s aim was “to explore the relationship between early clinical events (including infections) and the development of CD [celiac disease] in a prospective cohort of genetically predisposed infants.”

In all, they followed 373 Italian newborns with at least one relative with celiac disease. They were monitored closely for 6 years, and this included undergoing blood tests every 4 weeks for the first 6 months, every 3 months until the age of 1, every 6 months from the age of 1 to 3, and then once per year until age 6.

Across the study, 6% of the children were diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 3, 13.5% at age 5, and 14% by age 6. They also found that “[c]ompared with gastroenteritis, respiratory infections during the first 2 years of life conferred a twofold increase in the risk of developing CD [celiac disease].”