Background: Diagnosis of celiac disease may be problematic in that small-bowel villous atrophy sometimes occurs in conjunction with other enteropathies, develops gradually and may be patchy. Furthermore, as the often compromised quality of biopsy specimens renders diagnosis difficult, new diagnostic tools are warranted.
Goals: As the celiac disease-specific autoantibodies are found deposited at their production site, in the small-bowel mucosa, they may be useful in diagnostics, especially in problematic cases. We therefore systematically assessed the occurrence of celiac-specific autoantibody deposits in a large cohort of celiac patients, and established how IgA deposits decline after initiation of a gluten-free diet.
Methods: Transglutaminase-2 specific mucosal IgA autoantibody deposits were determined from small-bowel mucosal biopsies in 261 untreated, 71 short-term (1 y), and 105 long-term (2 to 41 y) treated celiac disease patients and in 78 nonceliac controls. The presence of the deposits was compared with celiac serology, mucosal villous morphology and density of intraepithelial lymphocytes.
Results: All untreated celiac disease patients had mucosal autoantibody deposits and their intensity was moderate or strong in 90% of cases. In contrast, 18% of the controls had weak depositions. During a gluten-free diet the intensity of the deposits diminished, but was still faintly positive in 56% of long-term treated celiac patients. The efficiency of the test in determining mucosal autoantibody deposits was superior to serology and inflammatory markers.
Conclusions: Mucosal transglutaminase-2 specific autoantibody deposits proved to be accurate gluten-dependent markers of celiac disease and would thus be of value in the diagnostics and dietary monitoring of this disorder.