Background & aims: We sought to determine whether prolyl endopeptidase (PEP) treatment of food gluten would obviate the intestinal dysfunction produced by small amounts of dietary gluten supplement in patients with celiac sprue.
Methods: Twenty asymptomatic patients with histologically proven celiac sprue completed a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study involving two 14-day stages. Each patient consumed a low dose of a gluten supplement daily (5 g; equivalent to 1 slice of bread) in 1 stage and gluten pretreated with PEP in the other stage. Patients completed a daily symptom questionnaire and a D-xylose urine excretion and a 72-hour quantitative fecal fat were monitored before and after each stage.
Results: Despite clinical remission at baseline, 40% of patients had at least 1 abnormal celiac antibody, 20% had an abnormal urine xylose, and 63% had an abnormal fecal fat test result. There was no difference in symptoms as a function of the type of gluten consumed. In response to gluten not treated with PEP, an appreciable proportion of patients developed malabsorption of fat (7 of 17, 41%) or xylose (8 of 14, 57%). When the gluten was pretreated with PEP, fat malabsorption was avoided in 5 of 7 and xylose malabsorption in 4 of 8 of these same patients.
Conclusions: A significant proportion of asymptomatic patients with celiac sprue have abnormal celiac antibodies and fat or carbohydrate malabsorption. Pretreatment of gluten with PEP avoided the development of fat or carbohydrate malabsorption in the majority of those patients who developed fat or carbohydrate malabsorption after a 2-week gluten challenge.