Objective: To evaluate the feasibility and diagnostic accuracy of screening for coeliac disease by rapid detection of IgA antibodies to tissue transglutaminase performed in primary care. Design: District nurses screened 6 year old children using rapid antibody testing of finger prick blood. They also collected capillary blood samples for laboratory determination of IgA and IgG antibodies to endomysium and IgA antibodies to tissue transglutaminase. Children with positive rapid test results were directly sent for biopsy of the small intestine. Setting: Primary care in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, Hungary. Participants: 2690 children (77% of 6 year olds living in the county) and 120 nurses. Main outcome measures: Positivity for antibodies to endomysium or transglutaminase in the laboratory and coeliac disease confirmed at biopsy. Results: 37 children (1.4%, 95% confidence interval 0.9% to 1.8%) had biopsy confirmed coeliac disease. Only five of these children had been diagnosed clinically before screening. Rapid testing had a 78.1% sensitivity (70.0% to 89.3%) and 100% specificity (88.4% to 100%) for a final diagnosis of coeliac disease by biopsy. Sensitivity was 65.1% (50.2% to 77.6%) and specificity was 100% (99.8% to 100%) compared with combined results of IgA and IgG laboratory tests. Trained laboratory workers detected 30 of the 31 newly diagnosed IgA competent patients with the rapid test kit used blindly. Median time to biopsy after a positive rapid test result was significantly shorter (20 days, range 4-148) than after a positive laboratory result (142 days, 70-256; P<0.001). Children with coeliac disease detected at screening were smaller and had worse health status than their peers but they improved on a gluten-free diet. Conclusions:A simple rapid antibody test enabled primary care nurses to detect patients with coeliac disease in the community who were not picked up in clinical care. Extra training is needed to improve sensitivity.
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