Background: Reported frequencies of celiac disease in selective IgA deficiency in childhood vary widely and this is probably due to the different characteristics of the patients studied and to the different criteria used for intestinal biopsy: all patients or only those with symptoms of malabsorption. Diagnosis of celiac disease is of considerable importance in IgA deficiency because of its increased frequency and also because avoidance of dietary gluten permits elimination of the symptoms and complications of celiac disease.
Objectives: To obtain a more reliable estimate of the incidence of celiac disease in childhood IgA deficiency jejunal biopsies were performed in 65 consecutively diagnosed IgA-deficient children whose parents consented. Some clinical and laboratory parameters including IgA-antigliadin and IgG-antigliadin antibodies were evaluated to predict their usefulness in selecting IgA-deficient patients for intestinal biopsy.
Methods: All IgA-deficient patients had serum IgA levels below 5 mg/dL and salivary IgA below 0.5 mg/dL. Jejunal biopsy was performed using a peroral Watson capsule and IgA-antigliadin and IgG-antigliadin antibodies were performed by an ELISA assay.
Results: Biopsy findings of severe villous atrophy permitted diagnosis of celiac disease in 7.7% (5/65 children). IgG-antigliadin antibody levels, elevated in 16 patients including all five celiacs, were the best parameter for predicting celiac disease and gave no false negatives.
Conclusions: The 7.7% frequency of celiac disease observed in these IgA-deficient children is about 20 times higher than in the general Italian population, and the lowest among the studies biopsying all patients; this is probably attributable to the presence of a substantial proportion of healthy children (20/65) and very few (2/65) with autoimmune disorders. The elevated sensitivity and negative-predictive value of IgG-antigliadin antibodies lead us to suggest that positive IgG-antigliadin antibodies can be used to select IgA-deficient children for jejunal biopsy with a very low probability of missing celiac disease while allowing a drastic reduction in the number of biopsies performed.