Serum anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA and prediction of duodenal villous atrophy in adults with suspected coeliac disease without IgA deficiency (Bi.A.CeD): a multicentre, prospective cohort study

Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2023 Nov;8(11):1005-1014. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(23)00205-4. Epub 2023 Sep 9.


Background: Whether coeliac disease in adults can be diagnosed with serology alone remains controversial. We aimed to evaluate the accuracy of serum anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA (tTG-IgA) in the diagnosis of coeliac disease.

Methods: In this multicentre, prospective cohort study, adult participants (aged ≥18 years) with suspected coeliac disease without IgA deficiency who were not on a gluten-free diet and who had a local serum tTG-IgA measurement, were enrolled from Feb 27, 2018, to Dec 24, 2020, by 14 tertiary referral centres (ten from Europe, two from Asia, one from Oceania, and one from South America) to undergo local endoscopic duodenal biopsy. Local serum tTG-IgA was measured with 14 different test brands and concentration expressed as a multiple of each test's upper limit of normal (ULN), and defined as positive when greater than 1 times the ULN. The main study outcome was the reliability of serum tests for the diagnosis of coeliac disease, as defined by duodenal villous atrophy (Marsh type 3 or Corazza-Villanacci grade B). Histology was evaluated by the local pathologist, with discordant cases (positive tTG-IgA without duodenal villous atrophy or negative tTG-IgA with duodenal villous atrophy) re-evaluated by a central pathologist. The reliability of serum tests for the prediction of duodenal villous atrophy was evaluated according to sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for categorical and continuous data.

Findings: We enrolled 436 participants with complete local data on serum tTG-IgA and duodenal histology (296 [68%] women and 140 [32%] men; mean age 40 years [SD 15]). Positive serum tTG-IgA was detected in 363 (83%) participants and negative serum tTG-IgA in 73 (17%). Of the 363 participants with positive serum tTG-IgA, 341 had positive histology (true positives) and 22 had negative histology (false positives) after local review. Of the 73 participants with negative serum tTG-IgA, seven had positive histology (false negatives) and 66 had negative histology (true negatives) after local review. The positive predictive value was 93·9% (95% CI 89·2-98·6), the negative predictive value was 90·4% (85·5-95·3), sensitivity was 98·0% (95·3-100·0), and specificity was 75·0% (66·6-83·4). After central re-evaluation of duodenal histology in 29 discordant cases, there were 348 true positive cases, 15 false positive cases, 66 true negative cases, and seven false negative cases, resulting in a positive predictive value of 95·9% (92·0-99·8), a negative predictive value of 90·4% (85·5-95·3), a sensitivity of 98·0% (95·3-100·0), and a specificity of 81·5% (73·9-89·1). Either using the local or central definition of duodenal histology, the positive predictive value of local serum tTG-IgA increased when the serological threshold was defined at increasing multiples of the ULN (p<0·0001). The AUC for serum tTG-IgA for the prediction of duodenal villous atrophy was 0·87 (95% CI 0·81-0·92) when applying the categorical definition of serum tTG-IgA (positive [>1 × ULN] vs negative [≤1 × ULN]), and 0·93 (0·89-0·96) when applying the numerical definition of serum tTG-IgA (multiples of the ULN). Additional endoscopic findings included peptic gastritis (nine patients), autoimmune atrophic gastritis (three), reflux oesophagitis (31), gastric or duodenal ulcer (three), and Barrett's oesophagus (one). In the 1-year follow-up, a midgut ileum lymphoma was diagnosed in a woman on a gluten-free diet.

Interpretation: Our data showed that biopsy could be reasonably avoided in the diagnosis of coeliac disease in adults with reliable suspicion of coeliac disease and high serum tTG-IgA.

Funding: None.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Atrophy
  • Autoantibodies
  • Celiac Disease* / complications
  • Celiac Disease* / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • IgA Deficiency*
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Transglutaminases


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Transglutaminases
  • anti-transglutaminase autoantibody