Coeliac disease: changing views

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 Jun;19(3):313-21. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2005.01.006.


A continuing flow of new scientific developments concerning coeliac disease in the last decade asks for the formulation of new concepts of pathophysiology and clinical considerations. Immunogenetic studies have shown a correlation of the disease to the HLA region on the short arm of chromosome 6, immunological research has led to the concept of a T-cell driven immunologic response of the small intestine, with the identification of highly sensitive and specific antibodies. The understanding of the histopathology of coeliac disease has changed dramatically, initiated by the proposition of a spectrum of gluten sensitive enteropathy by Marsh in 1992. Clinical studies report a significant change in patient characteristics and epidemiology. The incidence of the disease has shifted to a majority of adult coeliacs, the disease may present with less severe symptoms of malabsorption and the screening studies suggest an overall prevalence of up to 1 in 200-300. Histopathology has been standardized; lymphocytic enteritis (Marsh I), lymphocytic enteritis with crypthyperplasia (Marsh II), and villous atrophy, subdivided in partial, subtotal and total (Marsh IIIABC). Special attention is given to a subgroup of 'refractory coeliacs', including the identification of pre-malignant T-cells in the intestinal mucosa. The management of coeliacs primarely consists of monitoring for compliance and complications. Dietetic and medical associations need to establish protocols and offer additional training to undergraduetes, internships, general practitioners and other allied health professionals. It might be relevant to have a low threshold for intestinal biopsies. However, screening asymptomatics may be harmful for individuals. Research is needed to assess the benefits of mass-screening in the future. HLA analysis can contribute towards recognising populations at increased risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Celiac Disease / etiology
  • Duodenum / pathology
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Glutens / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Glutens