Celiac disease (CD) is an immune-mediated systemic disorder induced by a trigger factor in genetically susceptible individuals. There is emerging evidence about the impact of the month of birth on the development of several autoimmune diseases. Our aim was to investigate whether, in Italian CD children, the season of birth is associated with development of CD later in life. We report a survey conducted at two Italian referral centers for CD in Rome and Bari. The CD database was created to enable retrospective examination of the data of all the consecutive patients, born between 2003 and 2010, who had received a diagnosis of CD. This CD patient group comprising 596 children was compared with a reference group that included all subjects born in the same period and in the same cities (439,990 controls). Overall, there was a summer birth preponderance in CD patients compared to controls (28.2 % of CD patients vs 23.0 % of the control population; OR 1.315; 95 % CI 1.100 to 1.572). Stratifying the caseload by gender and age, the summer birth preponderance was maintained for females (28.6 % CD females vs 22.6 % control females; OR 1.368; 95 % CI 1.069 to 1.750).
Conclusions: our survey confirms that in Italy, children born in summer are at higher risk to develop CD than subjects born in other seasons. The identification of a responsible seasonal factor or factors, such as timing of the first introduction of gluten and/or acute viral gastrointestinal infections, would be very important for disease prevention strategies.
What is known: • Environmental factors could be involved in the pathogenesis of CD. • Data about the impact of season of birth on CD development is so far derived from North American, Northern European and Israeli surveys.
What is new: • This is the first study in Southern Europe to find a relationship between season of birth (summer) and development of CD. • Summer-born infants are introduced to complementary feeding (gluten) in winter, when the rotavirus infection is at its highest peak; this may be the link between season of birth and development of CD.
Keywords: Celiac disease; Children; Rotavirus; Season of birth; Vitamin D.