Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate the metabolic function of intestinal microflora in children with celiac disease (CD) in order to find out if there is a deviant gut flora in CD patients compared to healthy controls.
Methods: The study group comprised children with CD, consecutively diagnosed according to current criteria given by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Thirty-six children were studied at presentation, i.e., on a normal gluten-containing diet, with clinical symptoms and signs indicative of CD, positive celiac serology markers, and a small bowel biopsy showing severe enteropathy. Forty-seven patients were studied when they had been on a gluten-free diet (GFD) for at least 3 months. For comparison, a group of 42 healthy controls (HC) were studied. The functional status of the intestinal microflora was evaluated by gas-liquid chromatography of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in fecal samples.
Results: There was a significant difference between untreated CD children and HC as well as between treated CD children and HC regarding acetic, i-butyric, i-valeric acid, and total SCFAs. The propionic and n-valeric acids differed significantly between CD children on GFD and HC. Moreover, there was a strong correlation between i-butyric and i-valeric acids in all study groups.
Conclusions: This is the first study of the SCFA pattern in fecal samples from children with CD. The results indicate that there is a difference in the metabolic activity of intestinal microbial flora in children with CD compared to that in HC. The finding of a different pattern of some SCFAs in celiacs both at presentation and during treatment with GFD indicates that it is a genuine phenomenon of CD not affected by either the diet, the inflammation, or the autoimmune status of the patient.