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Summary

Background : Population data supporting an association between the autoimmune cholestatic liver diseases, primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis and coeliac disease, is limited and at times contradictory.

Aim : To explore the relationship between coeliac disease and both primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis within the General Practice Research Database, a UK-based longitudinal primary care database.

Methods : We identified 4732 people with diagnosed coeliac disease and 23 620 age- and sex-matched controls within the General Practice Research Database. We calculated the prevalence of primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis for both the coeliac disease and control group.

Results : There was a higher prevalence of primary biliary cirrhosis in adults with coeliac disease, compared with controls [0.17% vs. 0.05%, odds ratio 3.63 (95% confidence interval: 1.46–9.04)]. Primary sclerosing cholangitis was also more common in the coeliac disease group [0.04% vs. 0%, fishers exact test (P = 0.03)].

Conclusions : There was a threefold or greater increase in risk of both primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis in people with coeliac disease compared with the general population. The association with primary biliary cirrhosis was weaker than in some reports and it is difficult on the basis of this study to justify screening patients with coeliac disease for either primary biliary cirrhosis or primary sclerosing cholangitis.