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Brain Dev. 2005 Apr;27(3):189-200.

Coeliac disease, epilepsy and cerebral calcifications.

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  • 1Ospedale Maggiore Pizzardi, Unita Operative di Neurologia Infan., Largo Nigrisoli 2, 40133 Bologna, Italy.


Coeliac disease, epilepsy and cerebral calcifications (CEC) syndrome is a rare clinical condition. One hundred and seventy-one patients have been reported in the literature. Patients are mostly from Italy, Spain, and Argentina, suggesting a geographically restricted condition. Epilepsy is more frequently characterized by occipital seizures. It may be benign or drug-resistant, sometime evolving into severe epileptic encephalopathy. Gluten free diet (GFD) efficacy seems to be inversely related to the duration of epilepsy and the young age of the patient. Patients with cerebral calcifications (CC) and coeliac disease (CD) without epilepsy are considered as having an incomplete form of CEC syndrome. Some patients with epilepsy and CC without CD are supposed to have a CEC syndrome with silent or latent CD. Whether CEC syndrome is a genetic condition, or whether epilepsy and/or CC are a consequence of an untreated CD is unknown yet. Since histopathological findings seem to be the expression of vascular calcified malformation, CEC syndrome may be considered a genetically determined entity, such as a type of Sturge-Weber-like phacomatosis. Moreover, CEC, as well as CD, is associated with HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 phenotype and genotype. The progressive growth and late occurrence of CC before beginning a GFD, the demonstration of anti-gliadin antibodies in the cerebro-spinal fluid and the association with HLA class II genes, suggest that an immune reaction originating from the jejunal mucosa, triggered by gliadin in gluten intolerance predisposed subjects (HLA phenotype) may be responsible for seizures and CC. Moreover, a long-lasting untreated CD folic acid deficiency may cause calcifications. Probably, CEC is considered a genetic, non-inherited, ethnically and geographically restricted syndrome associated with environmental factors.

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