Jejunal histology and the presence of serum IgA antibodies (JAB) binding to human jejunum in vitro were studied in 139 children with severe malabsorptive symptoms. Among 33 children with confirmed coeliac disease (ESPGAN criteria), 13 (93%) of 14 sampled before starting on a gluten-free diet had JAB, none of 21 sampled had JAB while on a gluten-free diet of long duration, and 90% of 30 sampled during gluten challenge had JAB. 53 children had severe jejunal villous atrophy (probable coeliac disease): 71% of those younger than 2 years and 94% of those aged 2-18 years had JAB during gluten intake. JAB could not be detected in 53 disease control patients (normal jejunal histology) and in 3 coeliac disease patients with selective IgA deficiency. Simultaneous determination of antigliadin (AGA) and antiendomysium (EMA) levels, and gliadin and tissue absorption studies, showed that JAB and AGA are different, whereas JAB and EMA are probably identical. IgA JAB could be the target-organ-related autoantibodies in coeliac disease.
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