(The Local) Norwegian scientists have discovered the cause of coeliac disease, the auto-immune disorder which causes gluten intolerance in about one in a hundred people.

Professor Ludvig Sollid and his team at the University of Oslo have discovered that coeliac sufferers have one of two defective human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) which cause the immune system to see gluten molecules as dangerous, triggering an immune response which causes severe inflammation and other symptoms.

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“When a person who has coeliac disease eats gluten, the immune system reacts to gluten as if it were a virus or a bacterium,” Sollid told Norway’s NRK. “It attacks the gluten, and part of this attack causes the immune system attacks the body itself.”

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