Celiac disease without villous atrophy in children: a prospective study

J Pediatr. 2010 Sep;157(3):373-80, 380.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.02.070. Epub 2010 Apr 18.


Objective: To establish whether children who are endomysial antibody (EmA) positive and have normal small-bowel mucosal villous morphology are truly gluten-sensitive and may benefit from early treatment with a gluten-free diet.

Study design: Children who were EmA positive with normal small-bowel mucosal villi were compared with children who were seropositive with villous atrophy by using several markers of untreated celiac disease. Thereafter, children with normal villous structure either continued on a normal diet or were placed on a gluten-free diet and re-investigated after 1 year. Seventeen children who were seronegative served as control subjects for baseline investigations.

Results: Normal villous morphology was noted in 17 children who were EmA positive, and villous atrophy was noted in 42 children who were EmA positive. These children were comparable in all measured variables regardless of the degree of enteropathy, but differed significantly from the seronegative control subjects. During the dietary intervention, in children who were EmA positive with normal villi, the disease was exacerbated in children who continued gluten consumption, whereas in all children who started the gluten-free diet, both the gastrointestinal symptoms and abnormal antibodies disappeared.

Conclusions: The study provided evidence that children who are EmA positive have a celiac-type disorder and benefit from early treatment despite normal mucosal structure, indicating that the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease should be re-evaluated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet, Gluten-Free
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult