Prevalence of celiac disease, Helicobacter pylori and gastroesophageal reflux in patients with refractory iron deficiency anemia

J Trop Pediatr. 2008 Feb;54(1):43-53. doi: 10.1093/tropej/fmm080. Epub 2007 Sep 30.


Objective: The aim of this article is to determine the prevalence of celiac disease (CD), Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and gastroesophageal reflux (GER) in patients with resistant iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

Patients: The study included 25 patients <18 years of age with refractory IDA (not responding to iron therapy for 3 months in a dose of 6 mg elemental iron/kg/day).

Methods: All patients included in the study were subjected to careful history taking and thorough clinical examination. Blood sample was taken for analysis of antibodies for CD including: antigliadin antibody (AGA), antiendomysial antibody (EMA), antireticulin antibody (ARA) and antitissue Transglutaminase (tTg) IgG antibody. Anti-H. pylori IgG antibodies and a (13)C-urea breath test (UBT) was done to all patients to diagnose H. pylori. Upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy was done for all patients to evaluate for the presence of some etiologies of intractable anemia as chronic blood loss. These included: CD, H. pylori infection and GER. The upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopy was also done to evaluate the presence of bleeding spots, ulcers or angiomatous malformations. In addition, gastric antral biopsies were taken for diagnosis of H. pylori infection by the following tests: rapid urease test, histopathological examination and culture.

Results: CD was positive in 11 out of 25 patients (44%), H. pylori infection in 12 out of 25 patients (48%), while GER was diagnosed in 11 out of 25 patients (44%). Patients with CD had age of presentation < or =2 years in two patients (18.2%) while the remaining nine patients (81.8%) had age of presentation >2 years and it was statistically significant (p = 0.05*). Also patients with H. pylori had age of presentation < or =4 years in five patients (41.7%) and the remaining seven patients (81.8%) had age of presentation >4 years and it was statistically significant (p = 0.03*). Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that the risk factors for severity of anemia were age of patients and duration of anemia. On the other hand, other parameters have no significant influence on the severity of anemia. Also risk factors of short stature were age of presentation of anemia, degree of anemia and H. pylori infection. AGA had the highest sensitivity (100%) followed by antiendomysium antibody (81.8%) while the tTG antibody had the highest specificity (85.7%) for diagnosis of CD. UBT and histopathology had the highest sensitivity (100%) for diagnosis of H. pylori while rapid urease test, culture, H. pylori stool antigen and anti-H. pylori IgG antibody had the highest specificity (100%). In conclusion, refractory IDA may be due to clinically unapparent H. pylori gastritis and CD. CD is one of the most common causes of intestinal malabsorption during childhood which leads to impairment of iron absorption. Apart from offering them gluten-free diet rich in iron, early detection and treatment of IDA and prophylactic iron and folic acid supplementation will go a long way to optimize their mental and psychological functions. Eradication of H. pylori infection with concomitant iron therapy should correct the anemia.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / classification
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antibody Formation
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Egypt / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications*
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / immunology
  • Helicobacter pylori*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antibodies, Bacterial