Background: Patients with celiac disease have immunoglobulin (Ig) M antibodies and IgA antigliadin antibody in gut secretions; this pattern of intestinal immunity may be a marker of latent celiac disease. Its frequency in patients referred for jejunal biopsy has been examined.
Methods: Serum IgG and IgA antigliadin antibody, jejunal fluid IgA and IgM antibodies to gliadin, ovalbumin and beta lactoglobulin, and jejunal fluid IgA and IgM concentrations were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Seventeen of 19 celiac patients on normal diet and 16 of 23 on gluten-free diet had the celiaclike antibody pattern, as did 41 of 217 other patients. Jejunal biopsy histology had been classified as normal in 38 of these, with minor abnormalities in 3; however, intraepithelial lymphocyte (IEL) counts were high in 13 cases. Trial of a gluten-free diet produced clinical improvement in 6 of 7 antibody-positive patients. After extra dietary gluten, one developed subtotal villous atrophy.
Conclusions: The celiaclike intestinal antibody pattern and a high IEL count may be markers of latent gluten-sensitive enteropathy; some of these patients are clinically gluten sensitive in the absence of enteropathy.