Background and aims: The occurrence of autoimmune disorders and organ-specific autoantibodies has been reported in coeliac disease. We assessed the prevalence of organ-specific autoantibodies in coeliac patients and evaluated whether their finding is an expression of associated autoimmune diseases.
Methods: Sera from 70 coeliac disease patients were tested for thyroid microsomal, gastric parietal cell, adrenal cortex and pancreatic islet cell antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence on O blood group human tissues.
Results: Eighteen coeliacs (26%) were positive for at least one of the autoantibodies studied; thyroid microsomal antibodies showed a higher prevalence (21%) than parietal cell (11%), adrenal cortex (4%) and islet cell antibodies (3%). In 15 (21%) of the 70 coeliacs studied an association with autoimmune diseases was found, including insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (6 cases), autoimmune hepatitis (3 cases), hypothyroidism (4 cases), thyrotoxicosis (1 case) and dermatomyositis (1 case). One or more organ-specific autoantibodies were positive in 12 (80%) of the 15 coeliacs with autoimmune disorders in comparison with their positivity in 6 (11%) of the 55 coeliacs without autoimmune diseases (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: The finding of organ-specific autoantibodies in coeliac patients discloses the coexistence of a wide spectrum of immunological diseases.