Background and aims: Gluten sensitivity is widespread among humans. For example, in celiac disease patients, an inflammatory response to dietary gluten leads to enteropathy, malabsorption, circulating antibodies against gluten and transglutaminase 2, and clinical symptoms such as diarrhea. There is a growing need in fundamental and translational research for animal models that exhibit aspects of human gluten sensitivity.
Methods: Using ELISA-based antibody assays, we screened a population of captive rhesus macaques with chronic diarrhea of non-infectious origin to estimate the incidence of gluten sensitivity. A selected animal with elevated anti-gliadin antibodies and a matched control were extensively studied through alternating periods of gluten-free diet and gluten challenge. Blinded clinical and histological evaluations were conducted to seek evidence for gluten sensitivity.
Results: When fed with a gluten-containing diet, gluten-sensitive macaques showed signs and symptoms of celiac disease including chronic diarrhea, malabsorptive steatorrhea, intestinal lesions and anti-gliadin antibodies. A gluten-free diet reversed these clinical, histological and serological features, while reintroduction of dietary gluten caused rapid relapse.
Conclusions: Gluten-sensitive rhesus macaques may be an attractive resource for investigating both the pathogenesis and the treatment of celiac disease.