Frequency and clinical pattern of celiac disease among siblings of celiac children

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1996 Aug;23(2):159-63. doi: 10.1097/00005176-199608000-00011.


To investigate the prevalence and clinical and genetic patterns of celiac disease (CD) among siblings of CD patients, 103 siblings and one twin of 80 celiac children were evaluated by means of their clinical history, physical examination, blood indices of nutritional status, and antigliadin antibodies (AGA). Antiendomysium antibody (AEA) levels were determined in 70 patients and 85 subjects were human leucocyte antigen (HLA) typed. On the basis of clinical or laboratory data or both, 21 siblings (20.2%) were submitted to intestinal biopsy, whereas intestinal biopsy in six siblings with positive serologic screening (AGA IgA or AEA or both) was not performed because of parental refusal. In a high percentage of cases (18%), all on a gluten-containing diet, the intestinal mucosa was atrophic, and CD was subsequently diagnosed. Because we could not submit all the siblings to intestinal biopsy, this figure could underestimate the real prevalence of the disease in our series; consequently, it was not possible to calculate accurately the sensitivity and specificity of AGA and AEA. Nevertheless, AEA (positive in all the nine siblings with mucosal atrophy), followed by AGA IgA, proved to be the best screening for CD. Eighteen of 19 CD siblings showed HLA-predisposing antigens. Among the 19 CD siblings, one showed a typical form with gastrointestinal symptoms, two had short stature, one suffered from recurrent vomiting, and in 15, the disease was clinically silent. On the contrary, among siblings who were first diagnosed (index cases), the majority (73.7%) had a typical form of CD, and no clinically silent cases were observed. We did not find any difference between index cases and CD siblings in food habits and distribution of HLA antigens. In 15 of 18 cases, the sibling diagnosed subsequently was the older one. Finally, the typical form of CD was significantly more frequent among the younger brother than the older. In conclusion, the high prevalence of the silent form of CD in our cases indicates that siblings of CD subjects should always be screened for CD. The combination of AGA IgA and AEA represent a good screening method to use in selecting children for the intestinal biopsy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology*
  • Celiac Disease / genetics
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Genetic Testing
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • HLA Antigens / blood
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / blood
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Serologic Tests


  • HLA Antigens
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Gliadin