Gluten sensitivity in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis

Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Mar;93(3):404-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1998.00404.x.


Objective: Whereas celiac disease and primary biliary cirrhosis have been reported to coexist in the same patient, the frequency of this relationship has not been clarified. Nowadays, the concept of celiac disease has been extended from that of a severe enteropathy to a broader concept of gluten-driven intestinal immunological response. In this study we assessed features of gluten sensitivity in a cohort of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.

Methods: Ten patients with primary biliary cirrhosis were evaluated a mean of 2 yr after diagnosis. The following features of gluten sensitivity were assessed: serum antigliadin and endomysial antibodies, small bowel histology (degree of atrophy and quantitative histological parameters), the presence of the typical celiac HLA genotype (DQ2), and intraepithelial lymphocyte response in the rectal mucosa after local gluten instillation (rectal gluten challenge).

Results: Overall, three patients presented evidence of gluten sensitivity. All three had abnormal titers of antigliadin antibody type IgA and one was positive for endomysial antibody. Two patients had partial villous atrophy. The rectal gluten challenge showed a celiac-like response, evidenced by an increase in intraepithelial lymphocyte infiltration after gluten exposure, in the three patients. The characteristic celiac HLA genotypes (DQA1 0501 and DQB1 0201) were identified in three patients. One of them also exhibited other features of gluten sensitivity. However, despite evidence of gluten intolerance, patients had minimal or no symptoms characteristic of celiac disease.

Conclusion: We detected features of gluten sensitivity in a high proportion of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Further studies should be performed to elucidate the clinical significance of this association.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • Glutens / pharmacology*
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rectum / drug effects
  • Rectum / pathology
  • Rectum / physiopathology


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Glutens
  • Gliadin