Background/aim: The aim of this study was to investigate epithelial cell turnover in childhood enteropathy to establish whether common disease related mechanisms operate. Levels of epithelial cell proliferation were measured in children with food intolerance (cows' milk protein intolerance and coeliac disease), and after infection with Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium, and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli.
Methods: Comparative measures of epithelial cell proliferation were performed by recording mitotic activity and MIB-1 immunoreactivity in proximal small intestinal biopsy specimens.
Results/conclusions: A hyperplastic crypt response was evident in all of the disease states examined and was particularly pronounced in coeliac disease and in infection with enteropathogenic E coli, where mitotic and MIB-1 labelling indices were significantly raised above control values. In contrast with coeliac disease, increased crypt cell production rates in enteropathogenic E coli infection were also due to an expansion of the crypt proliferation compartment, without a comparable increase in crypt cell numbers. Crypt hyperplasia is therefore a common tissue response to mucosal damage in food allergy and infection, although disease specific mechanisms are evident.