Background: The role of gluten as a trigger of symptoms in non-coeliac gluten sensitivity has been questioned.
Aim: To demonstrate that gluten is the trigger of symptoms in a subgroup of patients fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which presented with lymphocytic enteritis, positive celiac genetics and negative celiac serology.
Methods: Double-blind randomized clinical trial of gluten vs placebo rechallenge.
Inclusion criteria: >18 years of age, HLA-DQ2/8+, negative coeliac serology and gluten-dependent lymphocytic enteritis, and GI symptoms, with clinical and histological remission at inclusion. Eighteen patients were randomised: 11 gluten (20 g/day) and 7 placebo. Clinical symptoms, quality of life (GIQLI), and presence of gamma/delta+ cells and transglutaminase deposits were evaluated.
Results: 91% of patients had clinical relapse during gluten challenge versus 28.5% after placebo (p = 0.01). Clinical scores and GIQLI worsened after gluten but not after placebo (p<0.01). The presence of coeliac tissue markers at baseline biopsy on a gluten-free diet allowed classifying 9 out of the 18 (50%) patients as having probable 'coeliac lite' disease.
Conclusion: This proof-of-concept study indicates that gluten is the trigger of symptoms in a subgroup of patients fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for NCGS. They were characterized by positive celiac genetics, lymphocytic enteritis, and clinical and histological remission after a gluten-free diet.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02472704.