Background: The frequency of gliadin antibody (GA) positivity has been found to be increased among patients with chronic liver disease, as has that of coeliac disease (CD). CD has also been found to be increased among patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) or primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
Methods: To investigate these relationships further, a micro-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunofluorescence tests for GAs and endomysial antibodies (EMAs) were performed in large subgroups of patients representing various chronic liver diseases and in healthy blood donors.
Results: As compared with blood donors (among whom it was 5%) the frequency of IgA GA positivity was higher in all patient subgroups: alcoholic liver disease, 20% (22 of 110, P < 0.001); PBC, 16% (16 of 101, P < 0.001); PSC, 24% (19 of 80, P < 0.001); chronic hepatitis, 19% (13 of 70, P < 0.001); and hepatitis C virus infection, 11% (11 of 104, P < 0.01). Two patients with autoimmune chronic hepatitis were EMA-positive, and in both cases the presence of CD was verified by small-bowel biopsy.
Conclusions: IgA GA positivity generally occurs at increased frequency among patients with chronic liver disease and may represent non-specific immune activation. In liver disease GA testing is not useful in screening for CD, whereas the EMA test seems to be highly specific. CD is more prevalent than expected among patients with autoimmune chronic hepatitis but not among those with PBC or PSC.