Objectives: In children younger than 2 years of age, a diagnosis of celiac disease (CD) is difficult to make because anti-endomysium (anti-EMA)/anti-tissue transglutaminase 2 (anti-TG2) antibodies are less sensitive than in older children. The aim of our study was to evaluate how many children younger than 2 years of age and diagnosed with CD, were negative for serum anti-TG2 antibodies and to test the hypothesis that in these patients, TG2-specific IgA deposits could instead be present at mucosal level.
Patients and Methods: A total of 104 children younger than 2 years of age and 179 children older than 2 years, all of whom had been diagnosed with CD, were investigated for serum CD-associated antibodies (anti-gliadin [AGA] IgA and IgG, EMA-IgA, anti-TG2–IgA). The presence of intestinal anti-TG2 extracellular IgA deposits was searched by using double immunofluorescence in 56 of the patients younger than 2 years of age and in 40 of those who were older than 2 years.
Results: In children with CD who were younger than 2 years of age, high levels of AGA-IgA were found in 93/104 (89%) and 98/104 (94%) were found of have high levels of AGA-IgG. In children older than the age of 2 years with CD, 120/179 (67%) had high levels of AGA-IgA and 151/179 (84%) had high levels of AGA-IgG. Serum EMA were present in 92/104 (88%) in the younger group and in 176/179 (98%) of the older group. Ninety-one of 104 children (87%) younger and 172/179 (96%) older than 2 years showed high serum levels of anti-TG2. Finally, 41/56 (73%) children younger than 2 years and all of the 40 children (100%) older than 2 years of age showed mucosal anti-TG2–IgA deposits.
Conclusions: EMA and anti-TG2–antibody measurements show higher sensitivity for the diagnosis of CD in children older than 2 years compared with younger children. The search for mucosal deposits of anti-TG2–IgA does not improve the diagnostic performance.