Background/aims: Celiac disease (CD) is associated with primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and autoimmune hepatitis. We investigated the following: (i) the prevalence of tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTGAs) and endomysial antibodies (EMAs) in end-stage autoimmune liver disease (ESALD), (ii) the correlation among auto-antibodies and the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) haplotype, and (iii) the effect of liver transplantation on antibody kinetics.
Methods: Pretransplantation sera from 488 patients (310 with ESALD, and 178 with non-autoimmune disease) were tested for tTGAs. Positive samples were also tested for EMAs, and retested 6–12 and ≥24 months post-transplantation. Results were correlated with the HLA type of the recipient.
Results: Serological evidence of CD was found in 3% (ESALD) vs. 0.6% (non-autoimmune) of the patients (five-fold increased risk in ESALD). The prevalence of tTGAs (14.2 vs. 5.4%, P=0.0001) and EMAs (4.3 vs. 0.78%, P=0.01) was significantly higher in patients with the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 haplotypes. tTGAs and EMAs normalized in 94 and 100%, respectively, without gluten exclusion post-transplantation. Post-transplantation, of the five patients with symptoms of ‘classical’ CD, three improved. Intestinal lymphoma was diagnosed in another two cases with clinically ‘silent’ CD.
Conclusions: Patients with ESALD, especially those who are HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 positive had a high prevalence of CD-associated antibodies. Both tTGAs and EMAs decreased post-transplantation without gluten withdrawal. Immunosuppression may improve symptoms of CD, but might not prevent progression to intestinal lymphoma.