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Abstract

Background: Environmental factors, including infectious agents, are speculated to play a role in the rising prevalence and the geographic distribution of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. In the USA and Sweden where the regional variation in the frequency of celiac disease has been studied, a similarity with the geographic distribution of Lyme disease, an emerging multisystemic infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes, has been found, thus raising the possibility of a link. We aimed to determine if infection with Borrelia contributes to an increased risk of celiac disease. Methods: Biopsy reports from all of Sweden’s pathology departments were used to identify 15,769 individuals with celiac disease. Through linkage to the nationwide Patient Register, we compared the rate of earlier occurrence of Lyme disease in the patients with celiac disease to that in 78,331 matched controls. To further assess the temporal relationship between Borrelia infection and celiac disease, we also examined the risk of subsequent Lyme disease in patients with a diagnosis of celiac disease. Results: Twenty-five individuals (0.16%) with celiac disease had a prior diagnosis of Lyme disease, whereas 79 (0.5%) had a subsequent diagnosis of Lyme disease. A modest association between Lyme disease and celiac disease was seen both before (odds ratio, 1.61; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.06–2.47) and after the diagnosis of celiac disease (hazard ratio, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.40–2.35), with the risk of disease being highest in the first year of follow-up. Conclusions: Only a minor fraction of the celiac disease patient population had a prior diagnosis of Lyme disease. The similar association between Lyme disease and celiac disease both before and after the diagnosis of celiac disease is strongly suggestive of surveillance bias as a likely contributor. Taken together, the data indicate that Borrelia infection is not a substantive risk factor in the development of celiac disease.

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Alaedini, A., Lebwohl, B., Wormser, G. P., Green, P. H., & Ludvigsson, J. F. (2017). Borrelia infection and risk of celiac disease. BMC Medicine, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0926-1

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