Recent study results suggest that spouses and first-degree relatives of patients with celiac disease may face an increased risk of nonceliac autoimmune diseases. The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, monitored the risk of nonceliac autoimmune disease in more than 84,000 fathers, mothers, siblings, offspring, and spouses of patients with celiac disease, as well as in 430,942 control patients. During a follow-up period of an average 10.8 years, the research team found that 4.3% of celiac relatives developed nonceliac autoimmune disease compared with only 3.3% of those in the control group. The most commonly developed autoimmune disorders included systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, and sarcoidosis.
“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 nonceliac autoimmune disease in these individuals,” said lead author Louise Emilsson, MD, PhD, in a press release. “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.”
The study authors noted that although the excess risk found in celiac first-degree relatives can be explained by genetics, the fact that spouses also had a higher risk indicated that environmental factors could have been at work. They added that it was also possible that spouses share microbiome characteristics with their significant others, potentially affecting their risk of developing other autoimmune diseases.