Background: In a developing country, many conditions other then celiac disease (CD) can give rise to villous atrophy. We therefore assessed the role of immunoglobulin A (IgA)–antigliadin antibody (AGA) in addition to the ESPGHAN criteria in the diagnosis of CD in 104 Indian children.
Methods: Consecutive children with suspected CD were evaluated over 3 years with an intention to diagnose CD. Complete hemogram, d-xylose absorption test, endoscopic duodenal biopsy, and IgA–AGA titers were performed in all. CD was diagnosed on the basis of modified ESPGHAN criteria irrespective of IgA–AGA positivity (>5 U/mL), and those diagnosed were put on gluten-free diet and were monitored regularly. Children with suspected CD who had a normal duodenal biopsy result were taken as controls.
Results: The mean age of 50 children with CD was 6.3 ± 2.6 years, with a male to female ratio of 3:2. The mean duration of symptoms was 3.4 ± 2.2 years. Predominant symptoms were pallor in 96%, failure to thrive in 92%, and diarrhea in 80%. On follow-up (19.6 ± 8 months), symptoms subsided within 16 ± 9.8 days, and patients showed significant weight gain (mean weight at diagnoses and at last follow-up visit were 66% and 86% of expected, respectively;P < 0.001) and height gain (mean height at diagnoses and at last follow-up visit were 88% and 94% of expected, respectively;P = nonsignificant). The control group comprised 47 children with a mean age of 6.9 ± 3 years. On comparing CD with controls, diarrhea, anemia, low weight, and stunting were significantly (P < 0.001) more frequent in patients with CD. Sensitivity and specificity of AGA at a cutoff value of 5 U/mL were 94% and 91.5% and at 10 U/mL 88% and 100%, respectively. Follow-up AGA test was performed in 42 of 47 positive cases. All showed significant decrease in AGA titer, and 29 (70%) had a negative test result.
Conclusions: Indian children with CD are true cases of CD. They present late, diarrhea is absent in 20% of cases, and AGA test results show 88% of children without false-positive results at a cutoff value of 10 U/mL. However, AGA test with 94% sensitivity at a cutoff value of 5 U/mL can be used as screening test to select suspected cases for further workup.