Coeliac sufferers have greater TB risk

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LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - People who suffer from coeliac disease have an increased risk of developing tuberculosis, according to research published on Tuesday.

Coeliac disease (CD) is an illness caused by an intolerance to a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Swedish scientists who studied hospital discharge records from 1964 to 2003 found that patients diagnosed with coeliac disease were more likely to suffer from tuberculosis (TB).

"CD is associated with TB," said Dr Jonas Ludvigsson, of Orebro University Hospital in Sweden.

"The risk of TB in patients with CD was increased 3-4 fold and was also seen when stratified for age and sex," he added in the study published in the journal Thorax.

Ludvigsson and his team also looked at risk of TB patients developing coeliac disease. They found that an earlier diagnosis of TB more than doubled the risk of coeliac disease.

Tuberculosis is a respiratory disease that is transmitted by an infected person coughing and sneezing in confined spaces. It can be treated with antibiotics but drug-resistant strains have developed. The illness kills about 1.7 million people around the world each year.

People who suffer from coeliac disease have an intolerance to gluten. The illness can produce a variety of symptoms including weight loss, diarrhoea, fatigue, muscle cramps and abdominal pain and bloating. The only treatment is to eat a gluten-free diet.

The researchers suggested vitamin D could be the link between the two illnesses. Coeliac sufferers can have a deficiency of the vitamin because of their restricted diet and difficulties absorbing the vitamin.

They suggested too little vitamin D, which is important for immune system response, could have an impact on the body's response to TB infection.

"We hypothesise that the malnutrition associated with CD, particularly vitamin D deficiency, could play an important part in the increased risk of TB," Ludvigsson added.

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