Background: Celiac disease has emerged as a public health problem, and the disease prevalence varies among different races and nations. The present study was designed to investigate the prevalence of celiac disease in apparently healthy Turkish schoolchildren and to detect children with silent celiac disease.
Methods: Healthy school children, 6 to 17 years of age, which there are 72,000 living in Erzurum were chosen as the study population. A total of 1,489 children were randomly selected by systematic sampling method. Samples were tested for anti- tissue transglutaminase IgA. Parents of the children who had positive test result were informed about the disease, and a small intestinal biopsy was proposed. A pathologist blinded to the serology results examined all biopsy specimens according to the modified Marsh criteria.
Results: A total of 1,263 healthy school children were screened for celiac disease. Of subjects, 687 (54.4%) were boys and 576 (45.6%) were girls. Mean age was 11.9 ± 3.4 years (range, 6-17 years). None of the patients had IgA deficiency. Of 1,263 children, 11 had positive anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA. Thus, the total seropositivity was 0.87%. Of seropositive children, 6 (54.6%) were boys and 5 (45.4%) were girls. We calculated the prevalence of celiac disease as 1:115. The prevalence of biopsy proven celiac disease was 1:158.
Conclusions: In this first celiac disease prevalence study in Turkey, we found that celiac disease is highly prevalent in healthy schoolchildren. Children with iron deficiency anemia and malnutrition should be evaluated more carefully with the understanding of the high celiac disease prevalence in Turkey.