Small intestinal permeability in dermatological disease

Q J Med. 1985 Sep;56(221):559-67.


Passive small intestinal permeability was investigated in 62 patients with atopic eczema, 29 with psoriasis and 18 with dermatitis herpetiformis, using the cellobiose/mannitol differential sugar absorption test. Urinary recovery of cellobiose and mannitol in patients with both psoriasis and eczema were similar to values in a control population, and were not affected by the extent or activity of skin disease. The cellobiose/mannitol recovery ratio was abnormally high in seven patients with eczema, six of whom underwent jejunal biopsy. Jejunal mucosal morphology was normal in five, and one patient was found to have coeliac disease. Cellobiose/mannitol recovery ratio was also abnormal in seven patients with psoriasis, and in 11 with dermatitis herpetiformis, seven of whom had a normal jejunal biopsy. These findings demonstrate that the passive permeability of the small intestine is normal in the majority of patients with atopic eczema and psoriasis. Increased absorption of macromolecules from the gut lumen cannot be ascribed to defective intestinal integrity, and is unlikely to be relevant to the pathogenesis of eczema. Abnormal intestinal permeability may be a more sensitive manifestation of gluten-sensitive enteropathy than jejunal biopsy in dermatitis herpetiformis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Cellobiose
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / physiopathology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestine, Small / physiopathology*
  • Jejunum / pathology
  • Mannitol
  • Middle Aged
  • Psoriasis / physiopathology*


  • Cellobiose
  • Mannitol