Screening for celiac disease: a prospective study on the value of noninvasive tests

Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 Mar;90(3):394-8.


Objective: Celiac disease is frequently diagnosed in patients with nonspecific abdominal symptoms. Therefore, highly sensitive, specific, and simple noninvasive screening tests are needed.

Methods: This study compared the usefulness of IgG- and IgA-antigliadin antibodies, IgA-endomysial antibodies, and intestinal permeability in diagnosing celiac disease in 102 adult patients with nonspecific abdominal symptoms. In addition, all patients underwent small bowel biopsy as a gold standard for the diagnosis of celiac disease.

Results: Forty-nine patients were ultimately diagnosed as having celiac disease because of flat mucosa. Flatulence and signs and symptoms dating back to childhood were more frequent and abdominal pain less frequent (p < 0.05) in celiac disease but were not helpful for screening. IgA-endomysial antibodies showed a sensitivity and specificity of 100%; an altered intestinal permeability had also a 100% sensitivity, but only 55% specificity. IgG- and IgA-antigliadin antibodies' sensitivity (73% and 82%, respectively) and specificity (74% and 83%, respectively) were much lower. Combining the two antigliadin antibodies did not significantly improve the sensitivity and specificity.

Conclusions: Our data show the advantage of IgA-endomysial antibodies for screening of celiac disease except in the case of patients with IgA-deficiency or dermatitis herpetiformis. In these patients, the permeability test could improve noninvasive differential diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / prevention & control*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Gliadin / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Lactulose
  • Male
  • Mannitol
  • Mass Screening*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / immunology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reticulin / immunology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Reticulin
  • Mannitol
  • Lactulose
  • Gliadin