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Intestinal permeability in pediatric gastroenterology.

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Dept. of Pediatrics and Allergology, University Hospital, Groningen, The Netherlands.


The role of the physiologic barrier function of the small bowel and its possible role in health and disease has attracted much attention over the past decade. The intestinal mucosal barrier for luminal macromolecules and microorganism is the result of non-immunologic and immunologic defense mechanisms. The non-immunologic mechanisms consist of intraluminal factors such as gastric acid, proteolytic activity, and motility and of mucosal surface factors like mucin and the microvillous membrane. The immunologic mechanisms include secretary IgA and cell-mediated immunity. Both types of mechanism are not completely mature at birth. Maturation of this barrier is not finished before the 2nd year of life. One of the aspects of the mucosal barrier function can be estimated by the intestinal permeability (IP) for macromolecules. We use the differential sugar absorption test (SAT), in which the ratio of urinary excretion of a relatively large molecule, lactulose, is compared with that of a relatively small molecule, mannitol, after oral ingestion. Although the small intestine is permeable to certain macromolecules in normal developmental conditions, an increased IP could be involved in the pathophysiology of several diseases, including infectious diarrhea, food allergy, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease. It can be concluded that IP, as measured with the SAT, reflects the state of the mucosal barrier and is altered in several gastrointestinal diseases. The SAT is a non-invasive IP test that can be of diagnostic help to demonstrate alterations in the small-mucosal barrier function and may be useful to evaluate therapeutic interventions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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