First determination of the prevalence of celiac disease in a Portuguese population.

Henedina Antunes, Isabel Abreu, Ana Nogueiras, Carla Sá, Carla Gonçalves, Prazeres Cleto, Fernando Garcia, Adelaide Alves, Dulce Lemos

Abstract


The prevalence of celiac disease is unknown in Portugal. In European countries the prevalence is between 1:200 and 1:400. The incidence obtained through diagnosed cases in the paediatric gastroenterology units in Portugal was 1:3648. To determine the best current celiac disease screening method and its prevalence in a portuguese population, 536 sera of teenagers with 14 years +/- 6 months from Braga town schools were tested as follows: a) total IgA, b) anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies c) anti-endomysium antibodies (AEA). One female adolescent, with negative AEA and anti-transglutaminase antibodies had a diagnosed celiac disease; this patient was under appropriate diet. Eleven adolescents had positive anti-transglutaminase antibodies and 4 of these had also positive AEA. A jejunal biopsy was carried out on the latter adolescents. Three presented intestinal villous atrophy, 2 a flat mucosa and 1 a moderate atrophy. One female adolescent had a normal mucosa. The prevalence was 1:134, [confidence interval at 95%, 1:53-1:500]. Conclusions: Presently, total IgA with determination of anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies is apparently the best screening method; it is less expensive test and, given the use of ELISA, less dependent on the observer. The celiac disease prevalence found in the present study falls within the range of prevalence recently found in other European populations, which implies that the celiac disease is under-diagnosed in Portugal.

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