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Summary

Background

Coeliac disease is strongly associated with human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DQ2 or DQ8 genotypes. The diagnosis is based on demonstrating crypt-hyperplastic villous atrophy, endomysial or transglutaminase antibodies and correlation of disease activity with gluten intake.

Aim

To evaluate the clinical utility of HLA-DQ typing, when coeliac disease diagnosis had previously been established solely by histology.

Methods

HLA-DQ alleles, endomysial and transglutaminase antibodies were investigated and histology slides reviewed in 70 patients diagnosed 2–25 years earlier by small-intestinal biopsy but without measuring endomysial or transglutaminase antibodies. Patients without DQ2 or DQ8 or without unequivocal villous atrophy were followed-up on free diet by using serology and biopsies.

Results

All 40 endomysial/transglutaminase antibodies positive patients carried DQ2 or DQ8, and 39 of them had severe villous atrophy. Only 56% of patients without endomysial or transglutaminase antibodies positivity had DQ2 or DQ8 (P < 0.001). Seropositivity and relapse developed in 4 of 11 DQ2 positive but in none of 15 DQ2 and DQ8 negative patients on long-term gluten exposure.

Conclusions

Coeliac disease diagnosis based solely on histology is not always reliable. HLA-DQ typing is important in identifying DQ2 and DQ8 negative subjects who need revision of their diagnosis, but it does not have additive diagnostic value if endomysial positivity is already known.