Latent and potential coeliac disease

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1996 May;412:10-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1996.tb14240.x.


Under the umbrella of coeliac disease (CD), or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, the concepts of silent, latent and potential CD have recently been introduced. While silent CD is marked by severe damage to the jejunal mucosa in the absence of clinical symptoms, both latent and potential CD are characterized by jejunal mucosa that would be reported as normal by most clinical pathologists in an individual on a gluten-containing diet. As opposed to potential coeliac patients, latent subjects sometimes in their life have had a flat jejunal biopsy which recovered on a gluten-free diet. Latent coeliac patients are often symptomatic; neither high titres of gliadin antibodies nor mucosal changes (including raised intraepithelial lymphocyte counts) are obligate features of latent CD, although the presence of elevated endomysial antibodies is probably the best predictor of progression towards villous atrophy. The term potential CD has been proposed for those subjects who do not have, and have never had, a jejunal biopsy consistent with overt CD, and yet have immunological abnormalities similar to those found in coeliac patients. Good markers of potential CD include the presence of serum endomysial antibodies, a high count of intraepithelial lymphocytes and subtle pathological alteration such as increased density of intraepithelial lymphocytes expressing gamma delta T cell receptor, signs of activated mucosal cell-mediated immunity, coeliac-like intestinal antibody pattern, and positive rectal gluten challenge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmunity
  • Biomarkers
  • Celiac Disease* / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease* / immunology
  • Celiac Disease* / pathology
  • Child
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / pathology
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Antibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • Glutens
  • Gliadin