False-positive serology for Celiac disease

It is prudent to exercise caution in establishing a diagnosis of Celiac disease (CD) in young asymptomatic children who are identified with screening serology (J Pediatr 2012; 161: 980-14).

In this Italian study, a nationwide, multicenter, prospective intervention trial was established to assess the role of age at gluten introduction on development of CD.  Subjects were recruited at birth who were at increased risk for CD; they had at least one first-degree relative with CD.

In their cohort, 96 children were identified.  In addition to having an affected first-degree relative, all children had positive serology (21 with positive tissue transglutaminase IgA antibody [tTG] and 1 with IgA deficiency/positive gliadin IgG antibody) and results of a small intestinal antibody.

While 72 had definitive CD, 24 were considered potential CD (serology positive/Marsh 0-1 histology) and asymptomatic.  The fascinating part of this study was the followup of the potential CD cases –21/24 continued on a regular diet.  Only 1 developed overt CD. 18 (86%) developed normal serology and 2/21 had fluctuating antibody levels after two years.

Based on their findings as well as consensus guidelines, the authors propose that asymptomatic young patients with abnormal serology should be followed for at least 3-6 months as long as tTG < 11 times ULN.

Other findings:

  1. Breastfeeding may have a protective role; individuals with overt CD had a shorter mean duration of breastfeeding than the potential CD group (4.2 months compared with 5.1 months).
  2. Gluten introduction at age 6 months did not increase risk of overt CD (compared to potential CD) relative to introduction at 12 months.

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6 thoughts on “False-positive serology for Celiac disease

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