Celiac disease in children

Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2015 Oct;39(5):544-51. doi: 10.1016/j.clinre.2015.05.024. Epub 2015 Jul 15.


Celiac disease is an autoimmune enteropathy, triggered by ingestion of gluten in genetically predisposed individuals. Since the use of anti-transglutaminase and anti-endomysium antibodies in the early 1990s, two main groups of clinical presentation can be identified: patients with a symptomatic form of the disease, and patients with a pauci (a)-symptomatic form detected during the work-up of another autoimmune disease or due to a family history of celiac disease. The prevalence of both forms of the disease is currently estimated between 1/100 and 1/400. Classical form of the disease is characterized by occurrence of diarrhoea, failure to thrive, and abdominal bloating in young infants in the months following gluten introduction. Serological tests show high level of anti-transglutaminase and anti-endomysium antibodies. Until recently, the diagnosis required duodenal biopsies that show villous atrophy. HLA genotype can help for diagnosis: the absence of the HLA-DQ2 or DQ8 alleles has a high negative predictive value. European guidelines recently proposed to reconsider the need for systematic endoscopy in typical symptomatic forms with high level of anti-transglutaminase and positive anti-endomysium. These recommendations are being assessed now. Currently, the gluten-free diet remains the only effective treatment for celiac disease. Children with celiac disease have to exclude from their diet all products containing wheat, barley and rye. Gluten-free diet causes clinical remission within a few weeks, but normalization of the small bowel mucosa and negativity of anti-transglutaminase antibodies are obtained in several months or even years. Gluten-free diet is useful to obtain clinical assessment, but also to prevent long-term complications of celiac disease, mainly osteoporosis, other autoimmune diseases, decreased fertility and cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis*
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / genetics
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Child
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Diet, Gluten-Free*
  • European Union / statistics & numerical data
  • Failure to Thrive / etiology
  • Flatulence / etiology
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Transglutaminases / immunology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Transglutaminases