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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 May;17(5):541-5.

Coeliac disease in South Asians resident in Britain: comparison with white Caucasian coeliac patients.

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  • 1Gastroenterology Unit, City Hospital, Birmingham, UK.



The catchment population of our hospital is ethnically diverse and we have seen a number of patients of South Asian origin with coeliac disease. We have suspected that there are differences compared with white Caucasian coeliacs, especially with respect to iron-deficiency anaemia and vitamin D deficiency at presentation.


To compare the clinical and laboratory features of South Asian adult coeliac patients with adult white Caucasian coeliacs.


We reviewed the notes of patients attending the adult coeliac clinic over the past 10 years. All patients were older than 16 years at diagnosis. There were 40 South Asians and 90 white Caucasians. Symptoms, haematology, biochemistry, endomysial antibody status, HLA alleles and small bowel histology at presentation were compared between the two racial groups.


There were significant differences between the racial groups. South Asians were younger at presentation than the Caucasian patients (mean age 27 years compared with 47 years respectively, P<0.0001); they were less likely to have 'irritable bowel syndrome' symptoms (P<0.01), but more likely to have features of vitamin D deficiency (P<0.03). Their haemoglobin (P<0.05), mean cell volume (P<0.0004), serum iron (P<0.01), transferrin saturation (P<0.05), serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (P<0.002), and levels were lower, while serum alkaline phosphatase levels were higher (P<0.04) than in white Caucasian coeliac patients. There were no differences with respect to serum folate, vitamin B12, serum calcium, alanine aminotransferase and small bowel histology. IgA class endomysial antibody positivity was similar in the two groups (88.5% for South Asians compared with 73.5% for white Caucasians). White Caucasian patients were significantly more likely to be DQ2-positive than the South Asian patients (97.2% compared with 83.3%, P=0.02).


South Asians with coeliac disease are less likely to present with 'irritable bowel syndrome' symptoms, but more likely to have features of vitamin D deficiency and iron deficiency, and have a higher alkaline phosphatase than white Caucasians. The differences in HLA alleles seen in South Asians with coeliac disease compared with white Caucasian patients suggests that among the South Asians, non-HLA regions may play a stronger role in disease susceptibility and presentation.

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