The physiopathology of idiopathic achalasia is still unknown. The description of circulating antimyenteric autoantibodies (CAA), directed against enteric neurons in sera of patients, suggests an autoimmune process. Recent data showed controversies according to the existence and the significance of CAA.
The aims of this study were to investigate whether CAA are detected in Tunisian patients with idiopathic achalasia and to look for associated clinical or manometrical factors with CAA positivity. Twenty-seven patients with idiopathic achalasia and 57 healthy controls were prospectively studied. CAA were assessed by indirect immunofluorescence on intestinal monkey tissue sections. Western blot on primate cerebellum protein extract and dot technique with highly purified recombinant neuronal antigens (Hu, Ri, and Yo) were further used to analyze target antigens of CAA. CAA were significantly increased in achalasia patients compared with controls when considering nuclear or cytoplasmic fluorescence patterns. (33% vs. 12%, P = 0.03 and 48% vs. 23%, P = 0.001 respectively). By immunoblot analysis, CAA did not target neuronal antigens, however 52/53 and 49 kDa bands were consistently detected. CAA positivity was not correlated to specific clinical features. The results are along with previous studies demonstrating high CAA prevalence in achalasia patients. When reviewing technical protocols and interpretation criteria, several discrepancies which could explain controversies between studies were noted.