Celiac disease without villous atrophy: revision of criteria called for

Dig Dis Sci. 2001 Apr;46(4):879-87. doi: 10.1023/a:1010729207320.


Current diagnostic criteria of celiac disease require small bowel villous atrophy, although the damage develops gradually. We therefore searched for evidence of disease in 10 adults suspected to have celiac disease, but evincing only minor mucosal inflammation and increase in gammadelta+ cells without villous atrophy. Twenty untreated celiac and 27 nonceliac patients served as biopsy controls. CD3+, alphabeta+, and gammadelta+ cells were increased in patients with only minor mucosal lesions, but less than in celiac patients. The inflammation resolved on gluten-free diet, and abdominal symptoms were alleviated. Eight of 10 had positive endomysial, seven gliadin, and nine tissue transglutaminase antibodies; all normalized on diet. Eight patients had osteopenia; HLA DQ2 was found in all. Minor mucosal lesions with an increase in gammadelta+ intraepithelial lymphocytes were suggestive of celiac disease. Our patients showed a clinical, histological, and serological recovery on diet; risk of osteopenia speaks in favor of dietary treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density
  • Celiac Disease / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged