Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, there has been a number of studies suggesting that celiac disease, a chronic immune-mediated GI condition triggered by gluten, is associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections (1-3). However, how that related to the risk of COVID-19 was unknown.
To address this, a team of researchers from McMaster University, in partnership with the Canadian Celiac Association, conducted a study to evaluate whether patients with self-reported celiac disease are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
In the Canadian Celiac Association’s interview with lead researcher Dr Maria Pinto Sanchez at McMaster University, she indicates:
“Early in the pandemic, every patient in our clinic was asking if their risk of contracting COVID-19 was increased due to their celiac disease. Initially, with the help of student Jamie Zhen, we developed a survey intended to be used just in our clinic; however, we saw the potential to bring/take it to a wider audience when my international colleagues expressed interest. After getting the approval of the McMaster ethics board, we brought it to the CCA to help us get the word out to celiacs across Canada.”
The study included participants of all ages with self-reported celiac disease, and those without celiac disease from different countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Uruguay and the United States.
Through a web-based survey, they found that patients with celiac disease had similar odds of contracting COVID-19 when compared to those who didn’t. They concluded that patients with celiac disease might not need to take additional precautions to prevent exposure aside from that recommended to the general public.
Longitudinal studies using repeated measurements will contribute to a better understanding of whether the risk of contracting COVID-19 in celiac disease changes over time.
For the full results, see the journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
For more information, see Canadian Celiac Association.