Association of maternal education, early infections, and antibiotic use with celiac disease: a population-based birth cohort study in northeastern Italy

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jul 1;180(1):76-85. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu101. Epub 2014 May 22.


We conducted a population-based birth cohort study of approximately 203,000 babies born in northeastern Italy (1989-2012) to investigate perinatal variables, early infections leading to hospital admission, and antibiotic use in the first 12 months of life as possible risk factors for celiac disease (CD). Incident CD cases were identified from pathology reports, hospital discharge records, and exemptions from prescription charges for clinical tests. Multivariate Poisson regression models were fitted to estimate incidence rate ratios (IRRs). A total of 1,227 children had CD; CD was histopathologically confirmed in 866 (71%). Female sex, maternal age, and high maternal educational level were found to be significantly associated with CD. Gastrointestinal infections were strongly associated with a subsequent diagnosis of CD (IRR = 2.04, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.30, 3.22). Antibiotic use was significantly associated with CD onset (IRR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.43), with a dose-response relationship for number of courses (P-trend < 0.01). Cephalosporin use strongly increased the risk of CD (IRR = 1.42, 95% CI: 1.18, 1.73). Use of antibiotics (supported by the dose-response relationship) and gastrointestinal infections in the first year of life may facilitate the early onset of CD by altering intestinal microflora and the gut mucosal barrier. Perinatal factors, including cesarean section, had little influence on the risk of childhood CD.

Keywords: antibiotics; birth cohorts; celiac disease; infections.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infections / complications*
  • Infections / drug therapy
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents