Age-related clinical, serological, and histopathological features of celiac disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep;103(9):2360-5; quiz 2366. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2008.01977.x. Epub 2008 Aug 12.


Background: Celiac disease (CD) is a common disorder in children and adults. However, limited data are available when comparing differences between both populations.

Aims: To prospectively evaluate and compare the clinical and histological features present at diagnosis in a cohort of celiac children and adults.

Methods: Consecutive new cases diagnosed between 2000 and 2006 were prospectively included (66 children and 54 adults). The clinical spectrum was categorized in two groups: (a) typical (malabsorption, chronic diarrhea, or failure to thrive) and (b) oligosymptomatic (abdominal pain, anemia, hypertransaminasemia, or screening in risk groups or in relatives). The histological results were divided into mild (i.e., Marsh I, II, and IIIA) and severe (i.e., Marsh IIIB, IIIC). In all cases, the human antitissue transglutaminase IgA antibodies (TTGA) were determined.

Results: Overall, a female/male ratio (2.6:1) was observed. This ratio was significantly higher in adults (5.7:1) than in children (1.6:1) (P= 0.009). Typical symptoms were present in 62.5% children versus 31% adults (P= 0.01). The average time to diagnosis after the appearance of symptoms was 7.6 months for children and 90 months for adults (P < 0.001). TTGA levels were higher in children and correlated with age (P < 0.001) and with the degree of villous atrophy (P < 0.001). Histological analysis revealed a marked atrophy in 86% children versus 52% adults (P < 0.001). The degree of villous atrophy was inversely correlated with age (P < 0.001). Classic symptoms were also associated with more severe villous atrophy.

Conclusions: At initial diagnosis, CD shows age-related differences, which consist of more evident clinical and histological features in children. Furthermore, IgA TTGA levels correlate both with the degree of villous atrophy and with the patient's age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Celiac Disease / blood
  • Celiac Disease / classification*
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Transglutaminases / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Transglutaminases